Tim Gunn Is Helping Me Write My Book

You know Tim Gunn? From “Project Runway?” He helps the design contestants as they struggle to complete each new challenge – his motto on the show is “make it work.” I was reading an interview with him on the BlogHer site, written by the fantastic Susan Wagner:

“Gunn’s basic philosophy boils down to his recognizeable tag line: “Make it work!” In A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style, Gunn writes about the evolution of this philosophy. He watched students, stumped by assignments, abandon the designs they had started midway, in the hopes that the next design would be better. “This practice unnerves me,” he writes, “because it’s like playing roulette with one’s work….Important learning occurs when a struggle is examined and analysed, diagnosed, and a prescription offered. Ergo, make it work.”

The rest of the article goes on to explain Gunn’s philosophy about fashion – that ordinary women can find their own style groove by paying attention to their own inner voice, trusting their own instincts, critiquing themselves, and not giving up.

I think this is fabulous advice, and not just in terms of fashion. I’ve been struggling with the book I’m writing. In the past few weeks I’ve been feeling like I want to give up on it. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t where where I’m going with it. But I can’t let it go – I know there’s something in there, somewhere. I know I had an idea when I started, and there’s still something I want to say, something I’m trying to convey. I keep reading a million blogs about writing, about other people’s books, about what they think or what they did and how they did it. I’ve let a million voices into my head, all giving me conflicting advice about what’s wrong with what I’m writing, and how to change it, and what it needs, and what it is, and what it isn’t. I should turn it into a novel. No – I should make it a serious memoir. No – I should make it a screenplay. No – I should make it a how to guide. NO! NO! NO! There’s so much babbling in my head right now that I can’t hear myself think.

I need to forget about what everyone else is saying – expect maybe Tim Gunn. I need to be quiet, tune out all the voices, and listen to myself. I need to stop trying to change it into something else that someone else wants, and figure out what I want. And I shouldn’t give up. I don’t want to to give up. I want to make it work.

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2 Comments on “Tim Gunn Is Helping Me Write My Book”

  1. Imogen says:

    This is great advice! A writer friend of mine (Nick Earls) just wrote a novel and play at the same time – two versions of the same thing. The book was good – haven’t seen the play yet! This is the first time he’s done it like that. A few of his other books have been adapted into plays (as well as one being made into a film in Italy).

  2. Tara Zucker says:

    Imogen – very interesting approach! I tried adapting a screenplay I had written into a novel, but didn’t get far. I’d like to get back to it one day – when I finish this one.


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