I am sure I’m not alone in stating that I believe “I Love Lucy” to be the best television show ever produced. Without using the word “obsessed,” it’s pretty fair to say that I’d rather watch old episodes of the red-headed comedienne and her three co-stars than anything else on television. Several years ago for Christmas my husband gave me the boxed set of all the “I Love Lucy” episodes (yes, it even includes the lost pilot and the Christmas special) and I can’t count how many times I’ve watched those shows from the beginning of the series straight through to the end.
So it’s no wonder that, over the years, I have collected a fair number of books about Lucille Ball and her career. And reading through those books, I’ve come to realize that Ms. Ball wasn’t just a comic genius, but she was also a savvy businesswoman who took responsibility for her company and her reputation very seriously. She was a hard worker (to the point of being hospitalized on several occasions due to exhaustion), a perfectionist (in a good way), and a shrewd (again, in a good way) Hollywood force-to-be-reckoned-with.
It’s also no wonder that the qualities that made her so successful make her a role model for me (and, I suspect, for lots of other people), and I’ve found that much of her philosophy can be applied to my life as a writer. In her writings, interviews, and off-the-cuff remarks to the press, she shared nuggets of wisdom that only years of hard work can produce. And here are some of my favorites:
1. I would rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.
After all, what can you learn from things you’ve never done? If I had never written that first book, never had the courage to send it out into the world to be judged, how could I expect to learn from it and make my future books better?
2. One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn't pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.
I know all about being discouraged, believe me. But it doesn’t do me a bit of good to brood. All that does is get me stuck in a miasma of feeling-sorry-for-myself, and that’s no fun for anyone. It’s a hard lesson to remember, because sometimes I want nothing more than to go somewhere and lick my wounds, but I’ve found that resolving to be better helps get me back on track, working again, and that’s the best cure for discouragement.
3. Don’t be afraid to play it straight. If you believe in the scene, the audience will, too.
This resonates with me when I think of the dialogue in a novel. It has to sound real, not like some idealized version of what a writer is supposed to sound like. A conversation won’t go anywhere when the participants are talking in stilted, archaic voices. Make it life-like. If I cry while I’m writing a scene, there’s a good chance my readers are going to cry, too.
4. The more things you do, the more you can do.
I love this quote and I repeat it to myself often. When I’m under a deadline with a manuscript coming due, blogs to write, marketing to do, and a household to run, that’s when I’m happiest. And I haven’t missed a deadline yet.
5. I’m writing about things I know. (Season 3, Episode 24)
Good to remember, but it’s okay to veer from this “rule,” too. After all, she followed her own advice and the results were disastrous!