How It’s a Wonderful Life Teaches You to Push Your Boundaries
If you’d never been born, how different would the world be?
But there’s one final Christmas story that surely would have vanished into dusty history if not for the most random twist of fate …
And it started with a dream. A dream about a man who woke up one day and got to explore how different the world would be if he’d never been born …
This dream became the short story behind the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. In 1938, Philip Van Doren Stern opened his eyes with the whole thing vividly in his mind. Over the next five years, he worked to turn it into a 21-page tale he called The Greatest Gift.
Trouble was, he didn’t have a publisher for his story. He worked as a writer, but he was known for his books about the Civil War and his “portable Poe” literary collection.
So, it was out of character … and without support from his normal publishers.
Yet, rather than give up on his work, he paid to self-publish 200 copies and sent them out as “Christmas Card” gifts to his friends and family.
One friend had a connection in Hollywood, and unbeknownst to Van Doren Stern, he showed it to an executive at RKO Pictures.
They made him an offer for the rights – $10,000.
Frank Capra, who ultimately made the movie, called it “the story I had been looking for all my life,” and it’s gone on to become one of the staple films of the holiday season. (It’s probably playing on a TV station near you right now.)
What can you learn from this? On one hand, Van Doren Stern was very lucky. But, was it pure luck? Or, had his belief in himself – and his willingness to share his writing – ensured that he was discovered by the right person at the right time?
I like to think it came down to his initial actions – putting in the work to polish a great piece and then sharing it rather than keeping his writing to himself.
So, look inward a moment. What great idea or vivid dream are you holding back? Give yourself permission to put it down on paper … and make the commitment to share it with your family and friends.
After all, who knows where a little sharing might lead you? Philip Van Doren Stern certainly wasn’t thinking of Frank Capra when he wrote his piece … but Capra was looking for a writer just like him.
If you’re feeling bold (and please do feel bold!), take the first step by sharing your idea or the outline of your story in the comments. I’d love to hear all about it – and I’d love to hear more about the plan you have to make sure the people around you know you’re a writer with good ideas in the year ahead.
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