Monday, February 23, 2009

This is a must read

As I told you earlier this year, I've decided to add the periodic book review to "Writing Career Coach". I've added this feature because I want to help find unique books that will not only help you grow as a writer, but also grow as a person.

Today I'm going to talk about The Great Eight: How to be Happy (even when you have every reason to be miserable). By Scott Hamilton with Ken Baker.

The Good:

What I really liked about this book is Scott not only gives realistic advice, but he is also very open with the way he changed figure skating. I remember in the late 1980s watching him in interviews, on the ice and watching reruns of his performance. He seemed to really have fun out there. He didn't take himself too seriously. He made me want to get off the couch and dance with him.

As the wife of a cancer survivor I also knew of his battles with the disease. His perspective reminded me of my husband. Both men always found a way to laugh during treatment and not allow cancer to steal any more than necessary.

And the skating analogies. I wondered if this would get lame after a while, but it really didn't. In fact, I'm taking the unusual step of encouraging your to read the introduction. This truly inspired me.

Finally, the real life principles. This was great. I felt like he was sitting next to me on the couch chatting with me as he spoke. I could feel his passion for skating. I recognized the kind of unique thinking that has caused him to remain in the spotlight when many other skaters have faded away. His principles can be applied to any life. His principles on his craft [skating] can inspire authors to take the initiative to really get out there and write the story of their heart. Scott didn't skate like the rest. He didn't allow adversity to stop him. He took the negatives, like his physical limitations, and he found a way to make them work to his advantage!

If I were ever given the opportunity to sit down and talk to him, I'd do it. He has the kind of thinking that finds success.

But it wasn't all happy. Scott was clear that he has made a number of mistakes in both his professional and personal spheres. While he doesn't delve in to them in a way that would make this just another hardcover tabloid, he gives the reader enough information to learn from his mistakes.

The Bad:
I wish I could say I love everything about this book, but there were a few issues for me. Primarily early on I saw some very weak writing and editing. In spots he'd repeat the same point, almost verbatim, a page or two apart. Rather than feeling like these points were made for emphasis the length of these passages made me wonder if there was either a rush job on editing or if they were trying to pad word count. My concern is that some of these early issues [nearly all in the first 80 pages] would turn a reader off and cause them to miss the wisdom I discovered in the balance of the book.

Also, there were a few spots where he slipped in to preachiness. I gave him some wiggle room, however, because I think this was because he is SO passionate about these topics. I NEVER felt I was being preached at, rather I felt he was a good friend who was so concerned for me that he was nearly begging me to listen.

Despite the writing issues early on this books is a must read. I even called two family members and told them to buy it and read it. When it comes to autobiographies this is one of only two that I've ever urged a family member to read.

My favorite part:
When Scott recounts his push for the Gold he reveals his strategy-one that paid off. While it could be argued that he hadn't been the BEST skater at that Olymic game [even Scott admitted that] he knew the best place to put his efforts to reach his goal. He didn't cheat anyone, he prepared strategically.

I began to think of how I could do the same thing as a writer. How are these things "scored" and where can we pick up the "extra points"? Don't simply try to be the best at EVERY area. Find the areas your best at and that will give you the greatest return on your investment. Remember, it's not always the best writing that ends up in the bookstore. Craft, like techinque, is important. Scott was excellent at his craft...but at the Olympics everyone is. You need to learn what will give you the edge.

Let me end with a quote from the book that I really liked

"Part of the appeal of the back flip to me was that back flips are illegal in amateur competitive skating. So I knew that if I could do back flips, it would be a bold statemnt that would turn some heads. Everyone would want to see my new trick...Even as an amateur, I tried to set myself apart visually. At a time when male figure skaters were wearing sparkling Spandex suits, I wore a speed skating suit instead. I didn't want it to be a costume party, but more of an athletic event. Not to mention it set me apart by making me look sleeker than I actually was." [pg. 154]

Scott, you inspired me as a child with your fun style. As a gymnast I was dazzles by your ability to do flips on the ice. As a writer I'm inspired by your ability to point out innovation in such simple terms. And, as a business owner, you inspired me to make sure I'm always learning from others, but not being a slave to conventional wisdom.

I recommend this book in the strongest possible terms.

Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at
Learn more about Tiffany's Marketing techniques on her main blog.
Common-sense money management is free at The Balanced Life website.
Read Tiffany's award winning manuscript "A Face in the Shadow" on her fiction blog.
She writes a blog for the Christian writer Tuesdays at Writer's Rest.


Darlene Siddons said...

as a writer we all have times that it is a challenge to stay focused on our writing...hence a writing is another tool as a writing coach you can share with your clients....Vision Map Videos....they are also great to advertise and promote new books...check them out...enjoy!!!


Jennifer Roland said...

I find it really interesting that you point out that Hamilton never cheated anyone, he just focused on achieving his goals even though he wasn't the strongest skater.

"Cheater" is what I kept saying when I was reading the 4-Hour Work Week.

I'm glad that Hamilton was able to achieve his goals without doing anything untoward. He really is an inspiring guy.