Friday, April 18, 2014

Backyard Inspiration

Do you feel like you need to go someplace special or exotic to be inspired? Do you look for an awesome place to become inspired. That place can be as near as your backyard. Maybe not literally, but close enough. There’s probably a lot all around you that you never see—or at least take for granted. But it takes more than just being in a special place or even a familiar one to be inspired.

Inspiration is a result of accidental stimuli. If that’s so, then it stands to reason that you’ve been waiting around for an accident. At some point in your life you’re bound to have some sort of accident. Perhaps in a car or a fall, or some other harm may come to you. It could be as small as dropping a plate in the kitchen. Essentially, that means you’ve probably been waiting around for an idea to strike. And chances of that are about as high as getting struck by lightening.

So how can you get inspired? To be inspired requires some amount of preparation. Not preparation in the classic sense, but preparation nonetheless. Perhaps it may mean an increased interest in a particular subject Your innate curiosity may lead you to learn more and more about a subject, so that when stimuli accidentally comes along, you’re prepared to become inspired.

You won’t be inspired in a vacuum. Sitting in a chair in your living room won’t inspire you. But sitting there watching an engaging documentary or an old horror film just may inspire you to write something on one of the subjects of these films, especially if the films cover subjects for which you have an intense interest.
There’s no mistaking that many consider travel a natural way to get inspired—to let things come along. Traveling to places that are similar to each other may lead to a complacency that stifles inspiration. But traveling to a place that offers a complex and very different culture from your own may inspire you in ways that you can’t imagine.

One writer who had traveled literally all over the world had the opportunity to travel to Russia soon after the fall of Communism. He knew little about the Russian culture, but understood foreign cultures from his travels to other exotic countries. When he arrived on Russian soil, he realized that this culture was like no other he had ever seen. The landscape was different, the culture was different, the people were different. In fact, they spoke an especially foreign sounding language he really hadn’t heard much before and couldn’t read.

But being assaulted by lots of accidental stimuli can be as bad as complacency. It’s a challenge to sift through it all and find a nugget of an idea or two that’s worth developing. Being different is of itself not enough. You must recognize the difference as it relates to you and your interests. What impressed the writer above was the warmth of the Russian people and how the culture was so very different from what he had been taught about Russia. He realized the richness of Russian history and became enveloped in it.

You may also be inspired by the details of nature. While a beautiful landscape may have an effect on you, it’s the little things you notice along the way—the delicate sculptural quality of a fungus on a tree trunk or the super size and brilliant color of a tropical jungle flower.

You can literally find inspiration in your backyard. A stand of bamboo, though small, may give you the feeling of being in a Chinese forest. The only thing missing are the pandas. Now take a closer look and become inspired.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Gather Ye Building Blocks

Today, people put a lot of stock into experience. You can get college credit for it when pursuing a degree. You can get a better job because of it. And as a freelance writer, experience can help you climb to the next market level.

Job applications and HR (Human Resource people—although at times they may seem more resource and less human) lead people to think that only the experiences they’ve had in a particular area related to the job are important. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. And in freelance writing, all types of experience count—not just writing experiences but life experiences as well.

Perhaps you began your career as a worker delivering prescriptions for a mom-and-pop pharmacy. Think of all the people you came in contact with. Then think of all the situations you needed to grapple with while doing your job—grumpy people, old, sickly people, angry people, strange people, and those that were just plain nuts. Think of the weather conditions you had to endure to get those prescriptions out to them. How you coped with them and the situations is your experience.

You say, “What does that have to do with freelance writing?” Believe it or not, a lot.

Every job you’ve had, every life experience leads to another. All the information gets stored in your brain for future use. Your mind uses all your experiences as resources to help cope with future ones. So the experience you gained dealing with all those people should eventually help you in dealing with editors—grumpy editors, old editors, angry editors, strange editors, and those that are just plain nuts.

Let’s look at the flow of experiences for a particular writer. Let’s call him Joe. Joe started his writing career working on the staff of his high school yearbook. When he went to college, he joined the staff of his college paper. While working on the college paper, Joe started writing reviews of movies, a favorite interest of his. An editor at the local town newspaper saw Joe’s reviews and asked him if he’d do some for her. While the pay wasn’t that great, it was a start.

Joe’s interest in movies led to a broader interest in media. After college, he wrote reviews of not only films, but of other forms of media. All the while, Joe continued to improve his writing. He eventually got a job on the staff of a small pop culture magazine. But the pay wasn’t enough to live on, so Joe pursued his studied area of expertise, business management, and eventually became the manager of a large regional office for a big corporation.

And while he enjoyed his daily work, his heart longed for the time when he could spend hours sitting at his home computer writing.

The trick to making your experiences work for you is to first identify them. Most people never really look at all the experiences they’ve had up to the present time in their lives. You’ve got to network those experiences and make them work for you.

While writing media reviews, Joe became friends with a movie producer. A few years later, the producer introduced Joe to some public relations people who promoted movies and videos. It was then that Joe learned about the movie business in depth. This led to a short gig as a movie columnist for a regional magazine.

Once he had his foot in the door, the rest, as they say, is history. Joe began to get assignments from editors of a variety of magazines. They were looking for someone who knew what went on in the movie biz. Then Joe hit the big time with an article in the Chicago Tribune. That led to more assignments.

So whether your experience is in writing, itself, or in the subject areas you write about, you need to always seek better assignments. You need to climb the ladder to freelance writing success one experience at a time.