Perhaps an artists’ most important lesson

In 2005 I picked up my copy of A Million Little Pieces, the book by a then unknown writer named James Frey that was hand-picked to be part of Oprah’s Book Club. I read it and I was mesmerized; I’d never read anything like it before. The story of overcoming addiction introduced me to a human experience that I knew nothing about. In 2006, when it was uncovered that the book was not a true memoir as it had been publicized, it was like the entire country felt like it had been duped, and I felt the same way. I”ve been in love with books and stories and writing since I can remember and I felt like Frey had really given it all a bad name. I gave the book away and never finished it.

Today Frey was interviewed again as part of Oprah’s most memorable guests and as I listened to him explain how he managed to become one of the most disgraced writers in America, I was struck by his story, and I think it has a really valuable message for all of us who call ourselves artists and even more for the artists who want to build a life on what they do.

He explained that the book was not originally pitched as a memoir, but that eventually labeling it with that genre was the only way it was going to be published. Take it or leave it. This was a man who’d spent the last ten years learning his craft, perfecting it until finally he had the chance of a lifetime. It may not have looked the way he expected it to look, but it was his opportunity, there for the taking.

Can you relate? I certainly can!

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” –Robert Fritz

James Frey made a mistake and he’s taken the fall for it, but the lesson is ours to learn. When you sell yourself short, you lose, even if it looks like you’re on top of the world. When we settle because it seems like that’s what everyone else is doing to succeed, we cheat ourselves and the world of what we have to offer with our gifts. When we believe that the only way to see our dreams come true is to make them fit into someone else’s genre category…get this…it’s not our dream anymore.

Dreams are not about what’s possible, and they’re certainly not about what’s reasonable. What I’m doing every night after coming home from work, building a business from nothing and from practically no experience, it’s not reasonable at all. It’s down right crazy.

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.

Thank you for the lesson, Mr. Frey.

Ashley Terry 2011

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