I’ve been asked to give a TED talk.
It sounds like a big deal because it is, and I’m excited. Really excited. But I admit I’m also kind of nervous. Here is me, a nobody, giving a presentation at TED. What makes me so special? Well, I’ll tell you.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Through a process that has yet to be shared with me, certain people are selected to give a live talk about their books, their life’s work, or their innovative ideas, usually accompanied by a slide show. They get to hold a cool little remote that controls the slide projector. When I step out on the TED stage, I’ll be holding the same little remote held by an impressive roster of world-renowned luminaries, among them Bill Clinton and Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell and Al Gore, Bill Gates and Bono, Gordon Brown and Richard Dawkins (whoever they are, I just lifted this from Wikipedia), and many Nobel Prize winners.
I won’t forget where I came from though, nor all the people I left behind. In fact, I still haven’t forgotten you. That’s why, here exclusively for the Femme Fatale readers, is a sneak preview of my entire presentation, slides included, except the first one which will be a picture of me. I’ll be, like, on a yacht or something with several dogs of the same breed, or some models in bikinis, or Leonardo DiCaprio. (I haven’t taken the picture yet. Please send me an email if you have a yacht and/or are Leonardo DiCaprio.)
[SLIDE 1 (to come)]
Hi, my name is John Clement. Thank you for inviting me to TED. Believe it or not, once upon a time I was just like you: Unhappy, alone, struggling to find meaning in an empty life as I crawled like a worm to my inevitable grave. Just like you, I was a miserable loser. But today, your luck has changed, because in the next few moments I’m going to share a secret — a secret so huge, so revolutionary, that your life may never be the same again.
YOU… can be fabulously rich.
YOU… can be happy.
YOU… can be a WINNER.
How? I’m here to tell you how: By becoming a writer.
Yes. I said writer. I know what you’re thinking. “John, you’re fantastic but money doesn’t buy happiness.” We’ve all heard that before, right? Over and over again? But let’s stop and ask ourselves: Is is true? I mean, really true? Can money actually make us happier? To help us find an answer, let’s take a look at the homes of a random selection of writers, some known, some not so unknown.
Here’s Edith Wharton’s house…
Not too shabby, right?
And here’s Robert Graves’ house…
Of course you’d rebuild, but what a view!
Here’s J.K. Rowling’s house…
Hey J.K., mind if I Slytherin?
And finally, here’s Paris Hilton’s bedroom (yes, she wrote a book)…
Now ask yourself: While it might be somewhat altogether not untrue that money can’t buy happiness, if you were in Edith Wharton’s mansion right now, wouldn’t you be just a teensy bit happier?
How about if you were in J.K. Rowling’s castle?
What if you were in Paris Hilton’s bedroom?
What if she’s not there?
By now you’re saying to yourself, “John, this is brilliant and you’re handsome, but how does it help me?”
Well, I’m going to share with you three simple steps you can take right now to put yourself on the road to becoming a fabulously rich and ridiculously happy best-selling author.
Step #1 — Buy my new book, The John Clement-Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
With a photocopy of an autographed, handwritten introduction by me hand-tucked under the front cover, the John Clement Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a must-have for all writers. It has all the words you need to create your own international bestseller. Available exclusively from me for $199 while supplies last. Order now. (Don’t be misled by the substandard so-called “dictionaries” available online and in bookstores for ten dollars or less. I don’t vouch for them, and they DO NOT include my handwritten intro.)
Step #2 — Choose the words to go in your bestseller.
I’ve done the research, and I can tell you with confidence that practically every word in every best selling book in the history of the English language is included in the Clement-Merriam-Webster dictionary. So just start picking words and have fun!
Of course, the obvious question is: If the words in all the books are all the same, why are some books destined for the Dumpster in the parking lot behind the church the morning after the annual civic association fair, while others have their own dedicated wings in Amazon distribution centers to keep up with the ever-expanding demand from adoring readers and Hollywood producers?
That brings us to the third and perhaps most important final step…
Step #3 — Write the words in the correct order.
This may sound tricky at first, but we can easily get the hang of it by examining the work of other writers who’ve already figured out how to do it. Let’s start with Elizabeth Gilbert. Here’s the opening to her internationally acclaimed bestseller, “Eat, Pray, Love” which sold a trillion copies and was made into a major motion picture:
“I wish Giovanni would kiss me. Oh, but there are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. To begin with, Giovanni is ten years younger than I am, and — like most Italian guys in their twenties — he still lives with his mother.”
Now, here are the same exact words, but in a less successful order:
“Most guys in their twenties wish Giovanni would kiss his mother. Like, there are so many reasons why. To begin with, I am Italian and I would be ten years younger than Giovanni. Oh, but he still lives with me. This is a terrible idea.”
See how the order of the words in the second instance just doesn’t have the same zing as the first? And yet, they are exactly the same.
Let’s try another. Here’s the opening from SALEM’S LOT, one of a trillion best-sellers written by Stephen King that’s sold a trillion copies. It was made into a movie along with a trillion other Stephen King novels:
“By the time he had passed Portland going north on the turnpike, Ben Mears had begun to feel a not unpleasurable tingle of excitement in his belly.”
And now the same words, but in a less commercially viable order:
“The turnpike going north to Portland was not unpleasurable, but by the time Ben Mears had begun to feel a tingle of excitement in his belly, he had passed.”
See that? Not nearly as good. In the second instance, our novel’s lead character has expired in the opening line. The chances of this becoming an acclaimed bestseller now are almost nonexistent, which further proves that you can’t underestimate the importance of Step #3.
At this point, you may be looking up at me on this stage and asking, “Why share your secret with us? Why don’t you just shut up and go write your own bestsellers, idiot?” Believe me, I’ve asked myself that very same question over and over again, but with more vulgar epithets.
The answer is simple: There are plenty of bestselling novels in this world. What we need is more bestselling authors.
Now go to it. You can thank me in the acknowledgements.