Now that you’re ready to quit, it’s time that I motivate you already. If you’re anything like me, telling me I can’t do something motivates me more than it depresses me. For those of you who were inspired by my first speech, then here’s double the motivation. Although the odds are heavily against you, and you have better luck playing the lottery daily, I figured I’d tell you about the people who did defy the odds. Here are the stories of a few people who I looked to for inspiration.
1. Sylvester Stallone – Actor, Screenwriter
One of my favorite Hollywood Rags to Riches stories is the story of this man, someone who personally inspired me to be the best version of myself that I could possibly be. Stallone wrote and stared in the film, Rocky, changing his life forever. It wasn’t all a fairytale though. Stallone went through hardship that I could never imagine experiencing, including living in the bathroom of a bus station and selling his own dog, which he eventually bought back for a higher price than he sold it for.
Now I won’t retell the whole entire story, but I will retell the part of it that resonated with me the most. Stallone apparently wrote the script to Rocky in a single night after watching Chuck Wepner fight Muhammad Ali. He pitched the script to studios who loved it, and offered him a whopping $300,000, which was plenty more than it sounds in the 1970s. There was one string attached to the script though, and the deal breaker was that Stallone had to play Rocky Balboa. There are very few people in this world who will go without food to eat or a place to live, turning down $300,000 for a script you wrote in a single night. Stallone had one thing most people don’t, and that is faith in himself. The movie studio finally allowed him to star in the lead role if they paid him next to nothing for the script, and the rest is history. Do you have the balls to believe in yourself so much that you throw away 300 grand? If the answer is no, I will urge you to quit now. Please don’t over think my statement, I’m not saying to throw away your life savings but if you have come extra wiggle room, take the shot.
My special number was around $16,000 over two and a half years. But we'll talk about that later.
The Shack is one of the few books that changed my life forever. The first time I have ever read The Shack was in high school. It was suggested by one of my favorite teachers who was teaching teaching an advanced placement religion class at the time.
Ironically, this teacher taught my father at some point in his life, but I’ll get back to why these types connections are important later.
Young is one of the far and few self-published authors who managed to succeed through his own determination. He gave his manuscript out as a Christmas present and word quickly spread that there was a new author in town. His first readers were amazed by his work. With the help of two men named Wayne Jacobson and Brad Cummings, The Shack became the phenomenon that it is today. After facing sound rejections for being too Christian, Jacobson and Cummings started their own publishing company. They invested $15,000 in a story that would turn out to make millions and eventually become a movie.
Who ever said The Shack was too Christian?
3. Nicholas Sparks – Author, The Notebook
This one isn’t much of a dirt poor, rags to riches story, but I personally connected to Sparks’ journey to publication because it was a lot like my own. Sparks went the traditional way, sending out queries to literary agents and was plucked out of the slush pile by Theresa Park.
Sparks actually sent a letter to an agent who had recently passed away, and her assistant passed along the manuscript to none other than Theresa Park, who was hungry to make a name for herself.
Sparks’ sensational story, The Notebook, became a world-famous novel, a feature film, and caused him to become one of the rare first-time authors (who weren't already famous) to receive an advance of a few million dollars. Talent matters, but so does being in the right place at the right time. That’s a very cliché saying, but what you have to get out of that is that you can’t be in the right place at the right time waiting for something to happen. You always have to put yourself out there.
4. D.H. Lawrence – Author, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
How could I write this list without including D.H. Lawrence and the infamous Lady Chatterley’s Lover?
Get the giggles out now, we're going to talk about sex.
Even though you most probably won’t be interested in reading a book filled with old English dialect that sounds like nothing but gibberish, I believe Lady Chatterley’s Lover is one of the greatest literary pieces ever created.
Trust me when I say I’m the farthest thing from a hippie, but Lawrence has guts of steel to write this work during an ultra-conservative time period. Lawrence’s infamous work was banned in England and eventually self-published. One thousand copies were sent out, many among them being banned and confiscated, including in the United States, where the post office wasn’t even allowed to mail copies of the work.
Barney Rosset and Grove Press worked tirelessly to get the ruling overturned in court and the work published without any form of censorship, citing it was not meant to be intentionally pornographic, but art. Talk about belief in your work, but unfortunately, Lawrence wouldn’t live to see it become a staple of world literature. The book remained banned in the United States until 1959 and in England until 1960.
Now do you see what I mean about waiting a lifetime?
5. E L James – Author, Fifty Shades of Grey
Be sure to explore your wild side, writing can come in all different shapes and forms of experiences.
Well, sadly, that’s not what I’m going to tell you to do. Although you’re more than welcome to break out the whips and chains with that special someone, there’s another reason why the story of Fifty Shades of Grey should be on your radar.
Believe it or not, James was self-published in a way. Her claim to fame started out as Twilight fan fiction and became the international phenomenon that it is today including sequel novels and a set of films.
This book is important because it changed the literary world forever and gave leeway to those who are willing to publish a book in a general sense. This novel broke boundaries by showing that publishers don’t always necessarily know what it is that readers want to read. Anything is fair game so long as you have an audience willing to read it. In the day an age when technology is prevalent in our daily lives, it’s never been easier to get your work out there before.
The moral to this story is: Write whatever it is that YOU want to right and deliver it to the correct audience. A publisher doesn’t get to control what people will enjoy reading, you do.
Do you have what it takes to be this sixth person on this list of esteemed individuals? Do you want your story to inspire other writers and artists around the world? You may be nodding gleefully after I just got your hopes up, but it won’t be long before I bring them back down.
Just because you have a great idea, you write a novel, spend months editing it, and get a marketing plan, definitely does not mean that it will all work out.
One thing you have to keep in your mind before you take your talents on to Lesson two is that you should never forget where you came from.
When it comes time for you to take the mantle on from the people that inspired you, never smack away the hand of an aspiring writer seeking advice or help. Always make time to sit down with someone and encourage them to take a shot at their dream.
There was once a time when you were that person sending out that desperate email, waiting to get the advice of someone you don’t expect has the time to entertain your question. Be the change, make the difference, and help someone else’s dream come true.