My friend Darrell Laurant is a veteran journalist and freelance writer who lives in Lynchburg, VA. For the last five years, he has been nurturing an international freelance writers' group called The Writers' Bridge. For the last thirty-six years, he has been married to Gail, an artist, whose influence has broadened his interest in all things creative.
Darrell recently sent this essay to the members of The Writer's Bridge, but it seems to me that it has a great deal to offer to artists as well. He has graciously allowed me to share his words of wisdom here. Thanks, Darrell!
1. KNOW YOURSELF. What kind of writer are you? Do you have the soul of a poet or the steel-trap mind of a techie? What interests you? What gets you emotional? What do you know a lot about? What experiences have you had that might benefit others? Are you a slow or fast writer? Experienced or new? Once you realize these things about yourself, you'll know in which direction you should proceed in your writing career.
2. BE YOURSELF. To be creative is to subject yourself to the tyranny of subjectivity. You loved a movie, the person you went with hated it. You want to crank up a song on the car radio, another passenger wants to turn it off. You will never please everyone, so you might as well find your style and your point of view and stick with it. If what you produce doesn't seem to fit a "niche," so be it -- if it's good enough, the niche will magically appear.
3. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Perhaps no other group of people is as hung up on self-flagellation as writers. Nobody's buying anything now. Nobody's paying anything. You can't get an agent. You can't make a living. There are too many of us. And on and on. I happen to believe that no one is given a dream and a passion for something without the corresponding capacity to succeed. If you feel driven to write, you'll outlast most of the writing multitude by sheer stubborness.
4. ACCEPT YOURSELF. No one starts out as a good writer, any more than you would start out as a good driver, good cook or good tennis player. Don't kid yourself. Accept criticism, and build on it. If you get a rejection, try to figure out why that happened and move on. There will be good days and bad days, but never stop trying to improve. It's a process.
5. ACCEPT REALITY. This may seem to be in direct conflict with No. 3, and in some ways that reflects the complexity of our world. When you are selling your work, you will always be faced with compromises. Remember, though, that you hold the power, and it is always your decision whether to make that compromise or not. If it's worth it to you, financially or career-wise, that's no disgrace. Moreover, accept that nothing you write is ever going to be perfect. At some point, you have to let it fly to the larger world, flawed or not. There's always another day, something else to create.
6. PUSH YOURSELF. If you're a freelancer, no one else is going to do that for you. Set goals. Make lists. Try to create a structure that you can operate within, as opposed to drifting in a vacuum. To be a freelancer is to adopt a dual personality -- you are your own boss, and also your own employee. Therefore, require of yourself what you would require of someone who was working for you.