Selling Perseverance From Comedy Writer

I’ve blogged over the years a fair few times on the persistence of those ultimately successful.

Salespeople I’ve met always seem to love marvelling at such of battling, day-by-day, against-all-odds, perseverance.

The knowing line of ‘overnight success, many years in the making’ emerges from tales of seemingly never-ending knockbacks. As wide ranging as from The Beatles efforts to land a recording contract to the inventions of James Dyson to Harry Potter getting published for JK Rowling to Angry Bird gamers to early cancer diagnosis.

So it was delicious to learn of another slant of resilience to add to such persistence stories this weekend. Via an Arts correspondent. Mark Brown recounts a career reflection at the Cheltenham Literature Festival of comedy writer, Richard Curtis. He of big movie hits (Four Weddings…, Notting Hill) and much loved sitcom gold (Blackadder).

The three real selling winners occur at the foot of his piece.

Firstly, there’s perhaps – among many angles – the reminder that no day spent cold calling in vain should be considered a write-off;

Curtis also advised people wanting a career in writing not to give up too early. “The difference between me and a writer who doesn’t go on writing is that I write 1% good a day and I think that has been a fantastic day … many people give up writing because they write for a day and they have got 99% rubbish,” he said.

You can ring for eight-hours straight and only reach one highfalutin, shadowy, unobtainable senior exec. Yet often it’s only when they know that you’re after them – and only them – can you build up the points to breach their defences. Without resorting to showing Natalie you’ve bought Davidoff Cuban Cigars (that’s a Wall Street 1987 ref, there btw).

Then there’s the skill in being able to refine, test, edit. And knowing that the first idea you have is unlikely to be the the one your buyer ultimately perks up for. A 25:1 ratio applicable to any Prop or Presentation?

“I did once work out that I had written 3,000 pages to reach Notting Hill, which was a 120-page script.”

Finally, more editing jewels which introduce the concept of switching around elements of your sales story. Sometimes, the chronological narrative thread must be shifted about a bit. Anything that gets you away from listing facts ‘n figures akin to reading numbers out the phone book and which jolts your listeners into concentrating is a good thing;

The editing of a movie could also save it, he said, recalling his experience with Bridget Jones’s Diary, which did “not work at all” until they moved the penultimate scene to the beginning, the scene with Bridget in her red pyjamas in despair drinking and crying. It became the title scene so you felt for the character from the start. “There are miraculous things which can happen in the edit,” he said.

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