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Looking 200 feet ahead: Anchor recalls perspective-altering conversation with novelist Elmore Leonard

‘It just felt like somebody had lit the runway for me,’ Devin Scillian says

Author Elmore Leonard poses during a portrait session prior to a reading and signing of his novel "Up In Honey's Room" on May 24, 2007.
Author Elmore Leonard poses during a portrait session prior to a reading and signing of his novel "Up In Honey's Room" on May 24, 2007. (2007 Getty Images)

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the writing process -- or overwhelmed by anything, for that matter, legendary novelist Elmore Leonard has some advice for you.

Although Leonard died in 2013, TV anchor Devin Scillian, from our news partner, WDIV-TV in Detroit, remembers vividly a conversation he had with the writer -- and the insight will forever stay with him.

“It just felt like somebody had lit the runway for me,” Scillian said in a recent episode of the podcast “The Best Advice Show.”

Scillian, who’s also a songwriter and a children’s book author, spoke to Leonard about how he felt intimidated, in a way, by the process of writing a novel.

It’s so intricately woven and connected, said Scillian, adding that he was overwhelmed at the thought of creating all these threads that have to somehow come together at the end.

“(Leonard) said, ‘Just remember -- you can drive from New York to Los Angeles at night, only by seeing the 200 feet or so that are given to you by your headlights. You can make it … 200 feet at a time, if that's all the light that's on your path.’ That is fantastic advice for so many different things. You know, you don’t have to have the whole thing figured out.”

And that’s kind of how Leonard wrote. He trusted his instincts as a storyteller.

Even if you’re not trying to write the next great American novel, just remember: You don’t have to have the whole thing figured out. Take it 200 feet at a time.

Here’s some more of Leonard’s writing advice.

Scillian’s 20th book, “Memoirs of a Tortoise” is now available, as well.


“The Best Advice Show" podcast creator and host Zak Rosen wants to hear from you next. It doesn’t even have to be this deep; another recent episode gave a life hack on how you should be sorting your silverware when you load the dishwasher. (It’s brilliant!)

To contribute some of your advice, drop Rosen a voicemail at 844-935-BEST. Leave your name and your tip, followed by your email address in case he has any follow-up questions.

We’re not so much interested in platitudes and truisms, but instead, we’re looking for the specific, odd, uplifting, effective, real advice from you about how you make it through your days.

“The Best Advice Show" is a product of Graham Media Group.


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