Larry Brody: ‘The Joy of Saying “No!”‘

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NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Live! From Paradise! #5
by Larry Brody

I just surprised myself by saying no to something, and I’m feeling kinda proud.

Not that I’m entirely responsible. Truth is, I owe my new resolve to the Ozarks.

What I said no to was work. Writing work, to be exact. Two book projects I would’ve jumped at not that long ago.

The first project was for more money than I’ve ever seen in any one place at one time. Writing it would mean I’d never have to work another day in my life. This opportunity, however, carried within it the seeds of its own destruction. First, I would be writing something that betrayed the confidence of a man who had trusted me. Second, I would have to include expose-type material that would be, in a word, lies.

Was I tempted anyway? Maybe just a little. But once I realized that my financial success here was directly related to how much I was not the man I think I am – or want to be – I knew it would be impossible to say “Yes.”

The other project was more reasonable. It was for a book about a subject I know nothing about, but I just happened to have had a student at Cloud Creek Institute For The Arts who is the world’s greatest expert in that particular field. My student spent a ton of money making a couple of videos on the subject but never tried to market them. I figured if I could get him to write the book he’d be able to recoup his investment and maybe sell the videos as well.

The only problem was that he wasn’t interested in doing the work. He wanted me to do it. “You write the book. Use my videos as research, or call me and pick my brain. Take the money and enjoy.”

That didn’t seem right. I suggested that since I’d be using his knowledge we should split the authorship and the pay. My student agreed, probably just to get me off the phone.

After we hung up, I started thinking about doing all that work. About having to dedicate three months of my shortening life to something I care absolutely nothing about. Three months of intense concentration that would take away from this column, my Cloud Creek work, and, most importantly, my family and friends. Three joyless months because I’d be working only for the money – and to help someone who didn’t want that help.

I couldn’t do it. But a friend of mine is a top journalist who’s used to working like crazy and is always behind the financial eight-ball. A dreamer who keeps hoping that “this will be the breakthrough project. The one that’ll make me. Please, God, let it happen this time…” So the other day I made the marriage between him and my student and the publisher. What happens next is up to them.

I know this all sounds strange, but I feel I’ve done the right thing. For most of my TV career I was the one hoping that “this will be the breakthrough project. The one that’ll make me. Please, God, let it happen this time…” The one who could never turn anything down. I didn’t work to live, I lived to work. And not even on whatever I was writing at the time. Oh no! The future was my focus.

I was more excited about what was Coming Next than anything Here and Now.

Can you be full of emptiness? I was. Although I felt full, my creative soul was empty. Consuming itself as I went along.

Now I’ve learned I can say no. And I think I know where. I was just talking to Dan Reynolds, head honcho at local TV station XL7-TV. He’d thought of a whole world of things I could be doing with my talents and my time. I liked all the possibilities but realized I had no interest anymore in pushing for them.

“If they happen, great,” I said to Dan. “But if I’ve got to work so hard at them that everything else suffers, forget it.”

“Son of a gun!” Dan said. “Congratulations. You’ve done it.”

“Done what?”

“Become an Arkansan. Taken on the Ozarks frame of mind!”

And he may be right.

Looking at the new me, my hard-driving friends in California might say I’ve been here too long, but I know I’m just getting started.

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

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