Everything is Copy

There’s a fascinating documentary on HBO right now called “Everything is Copy.” It’s a film about the life of writer-director Nora Ephron, best known for her work on movies like “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Julie & Julia,” which all explore how men and women relate to each other. She died from leukemia in 2012 at age 71, and the film is produced by her son, Jacob Bernstein.

Nora’s parents were successful screenwriters, and the title of the documentary is taken from a line her mother repeated constantly. Whenever Nora had a difficult day as a child or felt something horrible had happened at school, her mom would remind her that “Everything is copy” – meaning, “Remember this, and one day you’ll use it.”

As a creative person, Nora did use it – the good, the bad, and the very bad experiences that happened throughout her life. She put it feature stories for major magazines, best-selling books, and eventually the movies – and in the process, made sure that it was HER story that was being told.

The secret of her success is that she stayed in her wheelhouse.  Nora knew her “One Big Thing” was navigating the difficult world of relationships, so that’s where she poured her creative energies day after day. Her good times became copy, but so did her bad times – and through her artistic talent, she had a dramatic impact on millions of people.

So the next time you experience a challenge, obstacle, or outright disaster just remember Nora’s mom’s advice: “Everything is copy.”  When you creatively turn around your most difficult experiences into something that will help others, then you can truly say you’ve arrived as an artist.

Never forget it’s not about books, albums, or movie tickets sold, it’s about using your gift, no matter what the outcome may be.

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  1. Love this! I just started writing about some dark episodes in my childhood which I never wanted to reveal. Those articles get the most shares. I never thought of some of the “this is too crazy and no one would ever believe this is true” stories to resonate.

  2. It’s true. Often my failures are better stories than my successes. Every time I’m going through a hard time, I think, “This will make such a great sermon illustration.”

  3. Love your quote, Phil. It’s easy to get discouraged when I’m looking at numbers; however, when I just let my gifts flow out of me, I always feel like I’m walking in victory

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