Last June, notable writer and director Nora Ephron succumbed to leukemia after a six-year battle.
Her work influenced screenwriters and movie-goers, not to mention generations of women.
Her films such as “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” defined the romantic comedy genre, while her other films, plays and countless essays covered a range of topics, many of them personal, including her relationships. After all, Ephron’s mother once told her, “Everything is copy.”
We went looking for useful and insightful quotes on writing from Ephron. We discovered a trove of sayings on various topics that could inspire anyone—from writers and editors to journalists and even PR pros (and everyone in between).
Sunday, May 19, marks what would have been the late writer's 72nd birthday. In honor of the occasion, we look back at some of our favorite words from Ephron:
On Work (particularly writing)
In a 2010 interview with Charlie Rose
, Ephron shared an important lesson from her mother—screenwriter Phoebe Ephron—about the importance of work:
“[She] really conveyed to us that work was a great passion; that you couldn’t live without work. When you were asked what you were going to be when you grow up, the question was answered in terms of work—not in terms of motherhood or being married—it was what are you going to do.”
From the same Charlie Rose interview, she discussed her journalism career:
“[Journalism] is the greatest job. I loved it. I think it is a fantastic job. Now I kind of look back on it the way you look back on someone you were once in love with that you bump into and you think, what did I ever see in him?”
From her book, "I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
On Journalism, Part II:
From the essay, “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again
“1. Journalists sometimes make things up.
“2. Journalists sometimes get things wrong.”
From her 2007 New York Times
op-ed “The Six Stages of Email
“Help! I’m drowning. I have 112 unanswered email messages. I’m a writer—imagine how many unanswered messages I would have if I had a real job. Imagine how much writing I could do if I didn’t have to answer all this email. My eyes are dim. I have a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome. I have a galloping case of attention deficit disorder because every time I start to write something, the email icon starts bobbing up and down and I’m compelled to check whether anything good or interesting has arrived. It hasn’t. … In the brief time it took me to write this paragraph, three more messages arrived. Now I have 115 unanswered messages. Strike that: 116.”
On Business Jargon
Again, from “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again
“In business, there is no such thing as synergy in the good sense of the term.”
On Becoming a Screenwriter
From the essay “What Narrative Writers Can Learn from Screenwriters,” in the book "Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University
“A lot of college graduates approach me about becoming screenwriters. I tell them, ‘Do not become a screenwriter, become a journalist,’ because journalists go into worlds that are not their own. Kids who go to Hollywood write coming-of-age stories for their first scripts, about what happened to them when they were sixteen. Then they write the summer camp script. At the age of twenty-three they haven’t produced anything, and that’s the end of the career.”
(via Commerce & Arts
On Getting Over A Painful Relationship
Ephron’s second marriage was to journalist Carl Bernstein; it ended when she discovered that he was cheating on her—while she was pregnant with their second child. Her book (and subsequent movie starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep), “Heartburn,” is based on their relationship.
From The Los Angeles Times obituary
“I highly recommend having Meryl Streep play you. If your husband is cheating on you with a carhop, get Meryl to play you. You will feel much better.”
On Wearing a Bikini:
From “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're thirty-four.”
On Food (and life):
From her 2006 New Yorker
essay, “Serial Monogamy
“My mother didn’t serve Yorkshire pudding, although there is a recipe for it on page 61 of ‘The Gourmet Cookbook.’ My mother served potato pancakes instead. I serve Yorkshire pudding and
potato pancakes. Why not? You live once."
A version of this story first appeared on PR Daily in June 2012.