The Story Economy Blog

When to Throw Out the Script


Last spring, after my literary agent and I sent my honesty book proposal out, we had several phone meetings with acquisitions editors representing interested publishing imprints. I typed out lots of notes and memorized some answers to questions I thought the editors might ask. My agent and I also did practice calls so I would be ready. I’m very glad we did this, because it helped me prepare.

All of the calls went well. But the call that stood out was the one where I was able to throw out my script after a few minutes. I felt a connection with this editor immediately, and was able to talk more from the heart, and less from my carefully organized Word document.

The mutual courting process that went along with selling my book was long and tedious and scary, but after that call, I knew I wanted to work with that editor. Luckily, the publishing stars aligned, and it worked out! She made an offer for the book, and it turned out to be the one I most wanted. (Learn more about my honesty book.)

I interview a lot of people on the phone (or via Skype) every year, probably 300 or more. That’s 300 people I don’t really know and have probably never talked to before. Often, I get off the phone with no particular impression of the person at all—just a page full of helpful notes that I need for a story. Other times, I’m relieved to finally hang up because the conversation dragged on and on. But sometimes, the conversation takes on a life of its own, and I feel inspired and activated. (Keep in mind, I’m an introvert, so it means something if I’m drawing energy from someone).

I’ve been thinking lately about what makes that third kind of conversation—the energetic and inspiring kind—happen. Sure, some people are just more interesting and generally easier to talk to.

But more than that, I’ve realized that, for me, what makes a connection is when I’m able to throw out my script.

I think being prepared and having a script for how a potential interaction might go is extremely important. When I interview someone, I know what I’m going to ask that person. I want to make the best use of their time, and the best use of my time. There is a moment in certain conversations though, where you are able to let go of the rehearsed narrative and be more frank. More free. More real. And you can hear in it the other person, when they throw out their script, too. This is the reason why sometimes the best part of the interview is when the other person just starts talking candidly, almost like an aside. Some of the best information is contained in those little asides.

There are plenty of times when the script is important, and it keeps things moving and on track. Trust me, I write scripts for corporate events, so I can attest to their importance. Equally important are the times when you feel empowered to throw out the script. Pay attention to those moments, those connections, and those asides, because I think they represent the best chance we have for honest, authentic expression with someone else.

There’s actually a little more to the story of how I wound up choosing the book offer I did. Someday maybe I can tell the whole thing. But for now, it’s enough to say that throwing out the script can take you exactly where you need to go.

Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

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