3 Lessons from a Queen of Rom-Com, Nora Ephron
In February 2021, The Today Show ran a "Rom-Com Bracket Showdown" of some iconic rom-coms in the last few decades. While I disagree with the outcome, there was one thing that jumped out, 3 of the 16 titles included in this 'showdown' were Nora Ephron scripts; "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle," and "You've Got Mail." That's incredible.
I've been reading "The Most of Nora Ephron," and as I've been reading the breadth of Nora Ephron's work, I've been thinking about the refrain she heard from her mother throughout her life, "everything is copy," and how three words can mean so much.
Use the Imperfections
Nora Ephron served classic rom-com while living a remarkable but imperfect life. She was married three times. Her second marriage, to Carl Bernstein, was her inspiration for her novel, "Heartburn." Her challenges as one of the few women working at a major news publication inspired her work as a journalist and playwright. Her feelings about her aging neck inspired one of her most famous essays, "I Feel Bad About My Neck." She wasn't afraid to use the parts of her life that she disliked and wrote poignant work that would live on for decades. So, don't shy away from your mistakes or flaws because everything is copy.
Real Life is Adventure Enough
"I can't understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing." - Nora Ephron, "The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less".
Nora Ephron gave us iconic works of rom-com fiction, but her essays may be her best work. She did have an extraordinary life, but it's her treatment of the ordinary that moves me. There is an emphatic and passionate condemnation of the egg-white omelet, the confirmation of family legends shared around the dinner table, and dinner party tales that anyone who entertains can appreciate. It's all real life. Her work is full of moments that many of us would dismiss as bland and basic in our own lives, and Nora Ephron used those moments and made them worth reading. You don't have to seek some great adventure to have writing inspiration; pay attention to your life, and it will deliver because everything is copy.
Write It All Down
As writers, we should be journaling everything. EVERYTHING. I have always struggled with the practice of journaling. It makes me feel self-conscious. I write down whatever mundane things have happened, and I can't help but feel less-than and dull. But reading Nora Ephron makes me feel comfortable with the ordinary, and now, when I think of my own stories of family legends, bad dates, and unsuccessful dinner parties, I wish I had the notes to remember all of those details bring a story to life. So we have to write it all down because everything is copy.
Nora Ephron isn't the only queen of rom-com, but she certainly is one of them. She was also a prolific and talented essayist, blogger, and journalist. She gave her readers so much of her life in her witty and acerbic way. I'm grateful to her and inspired by her. Nora Ephron died in 2012, so I can't send this piece to her or tag her on Twitter, hoping she'll see my appreciation. Still, if there IS wifi in the afterlife, I hope she knows that her work keeps reaching people and making a difference.