Author inspirations from the works of a master: Dr. Seuss
If you grew up in the US and you’re of a certain age, chances are good that on your way to becoming a reader (and a writer) you became intimately familiar with the work of Theodore Geissel – also known as Dr. Seuss. In honor of his 108th birthday today (March 2, 2012), we’ll share some book writing and marketing wisdom gleaned from his delightful books.
In Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?, an old man sits perched atop cactus, sharing his wisdom about the value of life, liberty, and opportunity. This is one message every author writing today can take to heart – as it has never been easier to write a book. There’s still work involved in getting a good book to market, but anyone with the will, a computer, and access to the Internet can do it.
In Hunches in Bunches, a curious young boy is delighted by the many magical options laid before him by the mystical, mysterious hunches. From good ideas to bad ideas to just plain silly ideas, the young boy is awed by the possibilities. Every SBM* will become a bunch-of-hunches seeker! And they’re not all that complicated to find. Once you become practiced at thinking like a marketer, you find new ideas for promoting your book popping up at every turn. Then it becomes your job to weigh the good ones from the bad ones from the silly ones. Just a note, silly doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad!
In I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, the story’s hero runs into problems galore. Some days, your book marketing campaign may threaten to swallow you up because it feels like no matter what you do, nothing goes right. You’re not alone. The goal is to learn the lesson of Solla Sollew: our troubles can be treasures in disguise. If nothing’s going right today, maybe it’s time to take the day off, and come back tomorrow with a new set of eyes and a fresh perspective. Remember, sometimes all it takes is the slightest shift in perspective to reach an entirely new view of the world.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go is such a beloved book that it often is given as a gift to graduating high school and college seniors. If you haven’t started writing your book yet, or the manuscript is still sitting in a drawer somewhere, go find this book and read it out loud to yourself. Geez – at just 56 pages, you might even do something adventurous like record yourself reading it and play it back during those moments of doubt. The message that rings through loud and clear is this: Go! Venture out into the world in search of your dreams without fear or inhibition. Who cares if you stumble on your path? Get up, dust yourself off, and keep venturing!
The Dr. Seuss books were more than morality tales for kids; many were outlets for Geisel’s commentary on social issues. For instance, The Lorax addresses environmental conservation, The Sneetches tackles discrimination, The Butter Battle Book was a condemnation of the arms race, and Yertle the Turtle was modeled on Hitler’s rise to power. In fact, according to a Huffington Post story, political columnist Art Buchwald issued a friendly challenge to Geisel in 1974: Write a more direct political commentary. Geisel responded by rewriting Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! – changing the central character to President Richard Nixon. Buchwald printed the altered version in his July 30 syndicated column, and Nixon resigned nine days later.
Dr. Seuss was a master at weaving parables – stories that share instructive messages. Parables still work – even in the business realm. If you doubt it, consider the success of Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese? Written in 1998, it continues to be listed among the 150 top business books. Does your message lend itself to a parable of some sort?
Though he never had kids of his own, Geisel wrote more than 60 children’s books before his death in 1991. If you ever find yourself in need of some inspiration … head to the children’s section of your library or favorite bookstore. Then pull up a chair or sit on the floor. Read yourself a good Dr. Seuss book. Chances are it will change your entire outlook.
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