5 Lessons From Nora Ephron

I was saddened to hear of Nora Ephron’s passing last week. She is a woman who entertained me greatly with her writing and her directing.

All of us who write, whether our writing is a media release, a technical manual, a news story or even a simple email, can learn from reading articles, essays, books and screenplays written by Nora Ephron.

Among the lessons we can take from the work of Nora Ephron:

  1. Brevity is a good thing. She said she learned to “write short” while working as a New York Daily News reporter. Her magazine articles and essays are always clear and concise. While they are often more observation/opinion than actual reporting, her training in the basics of newspaper writing served her well throughout her life.
  2. Be honest. Her writing about the increasing number of deaths of friends and associates that occurred after they (and she) turned 60 was almost painful to read. Her lists of “What I’ll Miss” and “What I Won’t Miss” (about her life) at the end of her last book will elicit both chuckles and tears.
  3. Stay in touch with real people. Nora Ephron was raised in Beverly Hills, attended Wellesley College, then lived in NY (with a brief time in DC). She was a woman who enjoyed great professional success and wealth. Yet, in her writing and in her movies, she presented stories and characters that real people across the world could relate to and identify with.
  4. Keep working. Ephron wrote and directed her 2009 film “Julie and Julia” after she had begun treatment for leukemia. She wrote original material to go with previously published material for her 2010 book I Remember Nothing (and did numerous interviews to promote the book in ’10 and ’11).
  5. Maintain your sense of humor. Nora Ephron made me laugh many times and will continue to make me laugh when I watch certain of her movies again and reread her essays and articles. She is now and will continue to be quotable. Note how many collections of her quotes have appeared online in the days since her passing.

As we think about Nora Ephron’s writing style, her honesty, her work ethic and her sense of humor, it’s easy to look at her career success with admiration and envy and think (to quote one of her best lines), “I’ll have what she’s having!”

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