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Being Story

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I want to talk to you not about writing stories, but about being story. Being story means taking action to shape the story of your own life. It means making that story the foundation that your work comes from. It means choosing to live the life you want.

The inventor Buckminister Fuller said, "If you want to change how a person thinks, give up. You cannot change how another person thinks. Give them a tool the of use of which will gradually lead them to think differently." Well, this weekend was all about gathering tools from all the classes that you took on story. When you leave, I want you to apply those tools not only to your writing, but also to your life.

What is more important than the story that you are living? If you spent as much time developing your own personal character arc as you do polishing your spec script, how would your life change?

What if you could create the story you want to live by taking action? What if you could learn to become the active hero of your own story?

If you aren't living the life you'd want to see on the page -- if you're not happy with the log line for your own biopic -- what actions can you take to change it? What's holding you back from taking those actions?

Many of us let failure or the fear of failure, hold us back.

What if you changed the way you view failure?

I want you to start seeing your falls and failures in a new light. I want you to look at your failures as a step toward success instead of a step away from it.

Failure is what makes us grow. When you fall, you learn what didn't work. You took an action, and you didn't get the result you wanted. Fine. Now you know what not to do, right?

When we fail, we grow. And when we grow, we move forward.

No hero succeeds right away. In any great story, each action the hero takes sets up a new obstacle. These obstacles escalate. Things keep getting worse. Finally, it looks like all is lost -- until the hero turns things around and triumphs.

But that triumph wouldn't have happened without the failures that went before it, right? Heroes learn from each obstacle they face. A hero has to keep focused on her destination, but she also has to learn from her journey, or she'll get to the end of the story without the knowledge she needs to succeed.

When you choose to become your own hero, you choose to transform your failures into obstacles just waiting to be heroically overcome.

There are three key ingredients you'll need for this kind of real-life heroic journey:

Belief;
Action;
And a Defined Goal.

Most of my friends would call me an optimist. And I think for the most part, that's true. I've been working in Hollywood for 21 years. I've seen a lot of people's dreams come true. I've seen a lot of magic happen.

But when it came to my own dreams, well, I just wasn't quite as optimistic.

The legendary Aaron Spelling was my boss and mentor for 12 years. He was constantly telling me to write. Every time I turned in notes on a script or even wrote him a birthday card he'd say, "You should be writing." But to become a writer, I'd have to leave the security of the executive world. That security was what I'd grown up with. It was what I knew. So the idea of leaving it to pursue the dream of writing terrified me.

I helped to launch a countless number of writing careers. I staffed over 15 top primetime shows. I saw what it was to go from non-working to being a working writer. The thought "what if" constantly filled my mind.

I knew how to do it. I just didn't quite believe that I could.

It took a failure to light that fire of belief in me. I lost my job after 15 years with the same company. I felt like I was going through a second divorce. But recovering from that failure taught me how to redefine what I wanted, and take action to get it. I got where I am today by taking action to achieve a clear goal -- but the very first step was igniting that belief in myself. The first step was for me to believe I could be the hero of my own story.

Of course, belief alone isn't enough -- you've got to carry it out. You've got to become the active hero of your own story.

Becoming the hero of your own story will help you achieve your career goals. But it's not just about external markers of success. It's also about changing the way you see yourself and the events in your life. It's about deepening the connection between your life and your work, so that you're not just successful in your work, you're fulfilled by it.

In the book Conscious Business, Fred Kofman, talks about four components of the journey to success: being, doing, having and becoming. He says, "Our attention is normally drawn to that which we can see (the effect), which obscures the importance of what remains hidden (the cause). We focus on results (the having) and forget the process (the doing) necessary to achieve those results."

To me, this means you can't focus too much on your destination. You've got to have a goal, but you need to keep eyes open on the way there. If you don't, you'll miss the chance to learn from the obstacles you hit on the way there.

If you believed in yourself and you took action to start that journey towards your goal, what's the worst that could happen?

You could fail. But that failure won't be the end of your story. When you fall, when you fail, you get new information about how to do what you're doing better. Take it. Recognize that your failures move you toward success, not away from it. When you shift the way you see your pain, the creative world you've dreamed of can become a reality.

In my own life, the dream of being a writer became the reality of being the author of three books when I changed the way I looked at my pain. I realized that my falls gave me something to write about. My failures took me toward my dream, not away from it. Learning how to emotionally process those falls gave me the emotional fuel for my journey.

With belief, action, and a defined goal, you can make your dream a reality. You can turn your failures into obstacles on the way to success.

This is the most important story you will ever write: your own story. Learn to be in your story. When you write your own life story, we will see the real you in your writing. And that's what any audience wants: We want to see you be story.

For a video version of "Being Story", my closing keynote speech at the Story Expo with success stories included, go to this LINK.