Thursday, March 10, 2011
I Want to Be You
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?