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  • Sally Collings

Even Superheroes Mess Up


Here is a story that would have made no sense three months ago.

I’m writing this in week four of the “shelter in place” phase of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve been getting pretty low on toilet roll. You know that feeling: ten rolls in the cupboard for a family of four, and there is no doubt that the paper goods aisle in the supermarket will be as empty as the Void. It’s not exactly a crisis, but I found myself getting a little fixated on the situation.

Yesterday I did the rounds of my local grocery store, a larger supermarket, and the pharmacy. Not a sheet of toilet tissue to be seen.

Back at home, I sat at my computer and checked out Office Depot’s website. Sweet success! A box of 36 rolls of toilet paper could be delivered to my doorstep tomorrow. I felt like a superhero, plunging from the heavens and doing that crouching three-point landing they do.

Later that afternoon, I check my order to see how it’s progressing. It’s still underway, but something in the item description catches my eye. “2-ply bathroom tissue, coreless.”

Coreless? Uh, that’s those industrial-size rolls without any cardboard tube in the middle, right? So you’re telling me I can’t put these rolls on the holder in the bathroom?

Oh, well. Toilet roll is toilet roll, I figure. And if all else fails, I can set my teenagers to work re-rolling the paper onto cardboard tubes. (So far, they’re indicating a hard “no” to that suggestion.)

In lifestyle terms, I would have preferred to have got my order right, and receive the kind of user-friendly toilet rolls I had in mind. But if I had, there would be no story to tell.

Sometimes the best stories come out of your failures, disasters, goofs, gaffes, and slipups. Don’t be afraid to tell those stories in your book. The authors I work with are often reluctant to make themselves seem less than the hero of their own story, especially if they are writing a business memoir or a thought leadership book. But by being willing to show your own flaws and rough edges, you give your readers a way in, so they can live your story alongside you.

These are the stories that make you relatable and human, not just another superhero.

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© 2020 Sally Collings

The Book Proposal Expert

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