Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Want to Be You

I connect with many people in my online profession. It's remarkable to me that this tool can allow me to chat with people at levels I'd never access otherwise. And learn about people. And study people.

One day I want to be Alexis Grant. She quit work, traveled for two years (to Africa, no less), created her own writing business then went to work for US News & World Report. She just turned 30. @alexisgrant

Then I wish I'd ventured into writing and publishing from the outset instead of straying into it later in my life. I'm sure I could have risen to the heights of someone as savvy as Jane Friedman. "I am a late-sleeping, bourbon-drinking editor, at least mostly sane. I live life forward, even though you can only understand it backward. I don’t have hobbies, unless drinking is a hobby. I write, I read, I edit, I teach, I speak." I adore that synopsis of who she is. I'm half-way there anyway - I sleep late and drink bourbon. @JaneFriedman

And Sean McLachlan - oh my. He travels the globe earning a decent living as a travel writer, most recently hailing from Ethiopia. He's a wealth of information, experiences festivals and cuisince all over the world, and writes about history and locales most of us can vaguely recollect. @WriterSean

Then there's Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. Oh my gosh how I would love to be her. She left the city, married her husband she affectionately calls "Marlboro Man," and she raises four kids on a ranch in the middle of nowhere with a sense of humor to die for. As an agriculture major, gardener and chicken lover, I adore everything she does. I could almost give up writing to be her except she also writes! Perfection! @thepioneerwoman

But then I'll speak to someone at a conference who dresses superbly, or wrote a book I wish I'd written, or lives in a town I've always wanted to experience - and I want to be that person for the rest of a day. I love seeing what other people have done with themselves. It makes me envious, but also energizes me. These are people I never would have experienced unless I'd become a writer.

So I take snippets of these people, and I infuse them into articles, blogs (like this one), and characters. I follow them on Twitter, read their blogs. I have such richness at my fingertips to mold into marvelous material. Who needs to make up characters when we can create a collage of everyone we meet?

What I don't want you to do, however, is feel reluctant that you haven't done enough with your life. I want you to use others as examples, snip little pieces of what you like about them, and see if those pieces work in your world. Experiencing all these people online (and in person at conferences and throughout your work travels), should light a fire in you. Think of it as meeting someone who lights a spark, shooting you back into the world until you meet someone else, who does the same. You become an electric pinball, continually thriving from what you glean from others. As a writer, this ought to mean the world to you. It makes your brain powerful.

Sorry if this article doesn't seem to make sense. Guess I'm trying to say be excited about what others are doing. Learn from their successes and failures. Dare to grasp ideas and run with them - ideas gathered in your appreciation of others. Be so incredibly happy at the opportunity in my life.

Most importantly, know that what you are doing excites someone else.

We live in unique times, as the Chinese proverb says. It's remarkably exciting, don't you think?


BECKY said...

Hope, I've got to say this is one of my favorite posts of yours. So many times in my life, I've experienced these feelings of wanting to be someone else, too! I especially love these words of yours: "Think of it as meeting someone who lights a spark, shooting you back into the world until you meet someone else, who does the same. You become an electric pinball, continually thriving from what you glean from others. As a writer, this ought to mean the world to you. It makes your brain powerful." Oh My Gosh! That is pure poetry and like a beautiful song! I think I'll pin this on my bulletin board and read it many times a day! Thank you, thank you! (P.S. I am looking so forward to meeting you at the MWG next month!)

widdershins said...

We live in a huge house full of windows, but some poor buggers forget to open the curtains and then miss all those opportunities.

Hope Clark said...

Can't wait to meet some FFW readers like yourself. It ought to be fun. I rarely get to meet readers. Exciting indeed!

Love the analogy! SOOO on target.

Cheryl Barker said...

Hope, I love how you said that what we are doing excites someone else. I'd never really thought of that.

I'm usually one of those looking at others more accomplished and wishing I'd started pursuing writing and learned the ins and outs of the writing business earlier in life. So neat to think that someone might be inspired by looking at what little ole me is doing! :)

Karen Lange said...

It is interesting, and I think this is good advice. Too often we look at others and only see our shortcomings. But if we aim to do as you said, it makes for a much better balance and perspective.

Alexis Grant said...


What a surprise it was to go through my Google Reader this morning and see this post! I feel like we're alike in this way -- I sometimes get so excited about what other people are doing that I have more energy than THEY do! I love watching friends -- even if they're only friends only -- live out fabulous lives.

And, got to mention: I'd love to be you, too. You've built up such a community, one infused with your personality. And let's not forget: YOU have your first book coming out soon!! *Really* hoping to follow in your footsteps on that one.

Thanks again.

Laura Townshend said...

"I have such richness at my fingertips to mold into marvelous material."

"We live in unique times..."

Right on, Hope! When I hear fellow writers complain at what they perceive to be a lack of gigs, I remind them of these facts. We are very, very lucky. Inspiration abounds - all you have to do is keep your eyes open. And the opportunities for writers? I think we're living in unprecedented times - it is incredibly exciting for this Texas gal. ;-)

Thanks for spreading the love!

Hope Clark said...

Oh yes, you are on my list of impressive people.

Yes, this environment tends to identify shortcomings. We'd be happier watching for the positive.

Amen inspiration abounds. It's everywhere. I can't jot down the notes fast enough! Wish I could write about it all!

Laura Townshend said...

Yep - if only I had more time! ;-)

Anne Elizabeth Mueller said...

I really enjoy your blog, I look forward to it everyday. I always find something that applies to me somehow. I know you hear/read this all the time, but you inspire me. Keep on doing what you do for as long as you enjoy it. Thank you.

Linda Hoye said...

Hope, I discovered you blog when I was listening to a roundtable you did with Linda Joy Myers from National Association of Memoir Writers. Your site is a wealth of useful information! I know this will be a place I'll come back to often. Thank you for what you are doing!

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...


I always enjoy your posts. I also have deep admiration for many versatile, creative people I meet in my field of education and writing. I work at the Duke University Talent Identification Program, so the people you describe sound pretty gifted to me. Your blog reminds me of the comments of our students who come to "gifted camp" for the first time and are at first overwhelmed by the talent surrounding them. It's a trait of gifted students to be very passionate, intense, and self-critical. :-)

I think part of our writer's journey is letting excitement overtake any envy society trains us in--the idea that success and happiness is somehow scarce and only some writers are "gonna get it." Your writer's journey, full of long slogs through revision and dark moments of doubt, is completely inspirational to me. I call the writer's journey a hero's journey, and have developed curriculum for kids, The Writer's Journey, Volume 1, teaching stages of writing, encouraging them with Joseph Campbell's imagery and references to fictional characters and living heroes. We talk about "crossing the threshold" and "battling the beasts of revision" to help students see the goal, the obstacles, and the boon on the other side of the mountain.

Part of my hero's journey has been the blog--keeping the faith as I pursue my own personal MFA and study what makes great character, plot, setting, style...Here's a post analyzing what makes great characters and nerd heroes work I did to help me get better at my revisions.

While I'm not a mystery reader, I have no doubt I'll buy your book when it's published and also purchase it for friends who are mystery readers. You have done an amazing job of encouraging me who's never met you through the work you do "in the cloud." :-)



The Writer's Journey, Volume 1

Julie Hedlund said...

Thanks for giving us permission not to feel sucky about all the things we haven't done and start thinking about things we actually can (and will do)