#WANTwisdom: A Pragmatically Positive Guide For Writers + Creatives
Hey WANT peeps!
A weekend post – kind of fun and unexpected, right? I hope you’re sitting back and relaxing today, soaking in the last few hours before Monday rolls around.
I know that for me, Sundays are a time of very focused, grounded reflection and creativity, They’re when I get my best ideas, and when I’m able to look at the week (sometimes month, if I’m being ambitious) ahead with clear eyes and a soft gaze. Sundays are for me to reflect on who I am and who I want to be.
This week, I got to jam with Kit Steinkellner – an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who is also currently an editor at Hello Giggles.
Kit has been celebrated for so much in such a relatively short amount of time – a breadth of work some people take a lifetime to accomplish, she’s done before 30. She’s an inspiration to me and to so many other writers, not just because of her external success, but because of her relatable voice and special way of looking at the world. (if you haven’t read her interview yet, check it out here)
Humble, pragmatic, and spot-on, I asked Kit to share her five best pieces of advice for aspiring writers – which, honestly, can apply to anyone. Here’s what she said:
ON ART AND BUSINESS: Work on being the best artist you can be and the best salesman you can be. It’s 2015, you need to be both, but please try not to get the two mixed up.
ON SPEAKING TO YOUR AUDIENCE: Write the book you want to read, the movie you want to see, the story you want to hear.
ON THE STRUGGLE: Every writer you love to pieces had a hard time. It’s okay to struggle. You’re in good company.
ON PREDICTING THE TRENDS: Do not worry about the marketplace. The world doesn’t know what it wants next.
ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL: You can’t control whether or not someone will like your work. Here are some things you can control: working hard, showing up on time, being kind, writing thank you notes whenever you get help.
I know, for me, I sometimes forget that “the struggle” is universal – we hear stories about the tough times, long hours, and writers block after the fact instead of when people are still in it. It can be tough to remind yourself that where you are is exactly where so many have been – and frankly, probably still are, just in a different incarnation.
A few things that help me stay productive and focused on a positive, forward moving direction?
A JOURNAL OR NOTEBOOK YOU LOVE. I’ve been through so many notebooks and journals and then given up on them because they’re what works for someone else, not for me. You’ve got to find what works for you. I know that mini-notebooks aren’y my thing, and neither are clean, blank pages. I’ve got a hard-cover, ruled Moleskine I adore, though. Sure it’s a bit more difficult to fit into my purse and a bit heavier than your average paperback version. But I actually love that it’s a bit more substantial, that it’s got lines to help me put structure to my sentences and ideas, and how its neat little elastic band prevents it from flailing open and pages getting smushed (if Moleskines are your thing, you can get your own for a pretty reasonable price here).
STRUCTURE + RHYTHM. No one but you needs to know about this one – but having a sense of structure and rhythm are key to your sanity and follow-through, no matter what creative work you’re doing. When I feel at a loss for good ideas or (on the opposite end of the spectrum) completely scatterbrained, I come back to my core principles of WANT and the way I’ve structures a typical WANT week/month.
If a calendar system helps you, great! (I personally use a combination of 30 Boxes, a big ol’ desk calendar, and my Google Cal – did you know that you can get G-Cal to text you before a big event or to-do?) But even just a general sense of what kinds of things you’re producing and when you let each of them live is a lifesaver in those rough patches.
ENGAGEMENT + INTUITION. If you’re doing something creative and actually putting it out into the world, get a keen sense of how you can be of service. Like Kit said, the world doesn’t know what it wants next, and there’s no use trying to be everything to everyone or predict what’s going to be trending next. However. you can take a look at how people are responding to your work, exactly what they are responding to, and analyze the “why” behind it.
How are you connecting with the core of someone else’s being? What about you is striking a chord in others? There is something unique about you that resonates with others. Even when you think you have an idea of it, keep digging. Keep searching. It’s the quest for connection and purpose – and how you engage in the process – that will keep you authentic no matter what the marketplace says it wants. Because the secret, I think, is that it just wants to connect.
WANT Action Plan:
What helps you stay productive? Any genius finds or strategies I (and we!) need to know about?