People are funny creatures, aren’t they?
I’m talking about the folks who buy into in pithy sayings without sifting through them to make sure they’re true, and ask unqualified people for advice.
Case in point: more than once in the past, certain people-who-shall-remain-unnamed have come to me asking for vocal coaching.
The thing is, I am not a singer.
And (at the time of the requests) I had no vocal training, besides a teensy bit of choir experience. Even if I did, what makes them think that someone with limited singing experience is qualified to teach?
(Perhaps they thought my instrumental experience would rub off on my vocal cords or something?)
But no matter.
I bring this up only because one of the past requestees asked for coaching on a power-ballad by Kelly Clarkson, with a title that has haunted me for the last decade-plus:
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
The idea is that hardships make you into a tougher person, kinda like how trainees who survive Hell Week become Navy SEALS.
But is this true? Or not?
I waffled back and forth on this question for ages before concluding that, for writers at least, this statement is tru —
— ly idiotic.
I mean, breaking your spine and becoming quadriplegic doesn’t kill you, but it doesn’t make you stronger, either.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Especially if you throw in a depressive attitude, to boot.
(And for the record, I absolutely do NOT blame people who have been made quadriplegic for being tempted to adopt a depressive attitude. Who wouldn’t?
The real miracle is people who flip their attitude and make something good out of a bad thing. But that ability did not come from the bad thing itself, i.e. the breaking of the spine)
Then, there’s the flip side:
Munching on bonbons and watching your favorite TV show every day doesn’t kill you. It doesn’t even make your life difficult. Quite the opposite, in fact. (At least temporarily).
But either way, it certainly doesn’t make you stronger.
Yet, even if things that don’t kill you don’t necessarily make you stronger, they CAN do this one thing for you, IF you’re a writer…
The Paradoxical Philosopher & The Funny Thing About Bad Ideas
“Proverbs are all very fine when there’s nothing to worry you, but when you’re in real trouble, they’re not a bit of help.” — LM Montgomery
Before Kelly Clarkson, the famous (or infamous) German philosopher who coughed up this crazy “what doesn’t kill you…” maxim was one Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.
You know, the guy Hitler called “the greatest of our thinkers”?
The dude who gave eugenicists the philosophical ground they needed to build their utopia of ubermensch, if only in their minds (that’s “supermen” in German)?
That’s the one.
In his time, Nietzsche came up with a storm of ideas, many of them quite bad…as seen in his own life:
Nietzsche died at age 55 after suffering multiple health problems, including pneumonia, two strokes, and mental collapse. In other words, aside from the final illness that took his life, those other sufferings that “didn’t kill him” certainly did not make him “stronger.”
But here’s a funny thing about bad ideas:
Modify one little element from the original idea, and you can transform it into something actually useful.
Kind of like modifying poison from vipers in order to create antidotes.
In this case, we have to change two words from the original quote to make it work — like so:
What doesn’t kill you makes great stories
That statement pretty much holds true for any situation. Anything that doesn’t kill you, good or bad, happy or sad, can make for a great story.
Because, after all, it left you alive to write, and great stories come not from the events themselves but from what you make of said events.
Famous stories have been written about everything from broken hearts to broken harpoons. Anything works.
As long as it doesn’t kill you and render you silent forever, you can turn it into a story.
And your readers could always use another (good) story.
Case in point: Even a strange, mundane, story about budding singers seeking vocal coaching from a non-vocal coach can turn into a story, that leads into an article, that (hopefully) imparts a pearl of wisdom that will make readers into better writers.
See how that works?
Of course, the devil is in the details (to quote another aphorism that is actually true, most of the time).
Everything that happens to you, good or bad, becomes the raw ingredient for your writing. But even raw ingredients require recipes to become delectable dishes.
And HOW, exactly, do you turn everything — everything — into a useful, engaging piece of writing?
That, my dear, is more than I can get into in one article.
Which is why I came up with the Brilliant Writer’s Recipe Book, a step-by-step “book of writing recipes” that helps writers who have great ideas but no idea how to share them (in a way that will entice people to read them).
The course includes 10 (count ‘em!) popular article recipes that all great article writers use (whether they know it or not), plus bonus modules on the basic overall structure of a simple article (best practices for crafting your headline, intro, body, conclusion).
If interested, you can find out more about it here.
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Well then, you may join us using this:
Just keep an eye out for the invisible three-headed hippo, prodigious protector of pro Brilliant Writers everywhere (He has an appetite for hippo-critical freebie-seekers).