Experiments in Living a Writer’s Life

In the spirit of my newly hewn Curious-Authentic-Artist personality (read on for clarity) I thought I’d share an experiment. A week or so ago I downloaded a free booklet called The Writer’s Road Map, written by Jeff Goins.

I stumbled on Goins during a Pinterest foray for poster inspiration, so I can make one for the writing workshops I’m designing. Somewhere along the line I switched from poster to website design, and landed on his blog. A post called ‘Why the Story of the Starving Artist Needs to Die’ attracted my interest instantly. I clicked on it, learnt that Michelangelo left the equivalent of Forty seven million dollars when he died, and left an hour or so later with the free ebook.

As the title spells out, this ebook is a twelve step guide on how to make money from writing. As I couldn’t see any harm in it I thought I’d follow his route and see where it leads. Here followeth the first two steps:

1. Clarify your message with a world view

For this he’s provided a handy exercise: concretize the abstracts in the following sentence:

Every [person/group] can/should [action]. (He gives examples like: everyone should recycle, and all politicians should tell the truth. )

After ten seconds of thought I decided on: Everyone should have access to free education up to and including phd level.

By this I don’t necessarily mean university or college education. Education can be in any field: farming; hairdressing; shoe-making; fishing; building; weaving…  and the best ways to learn these is to work alongside someone who knows, someone who will answer questions, and show by example. There are all number of roles that need to be filled, and no one is born knowing how to do any of them. I don’t see why lack of money should prevent people from learning the things they want to, and that we need them to. We all benefit from the work everyone else does, and it seems nuts to exclude people from learning on the basis of how much money their parents make. Why should only rich kids get to become doctors, or architects, or only farmers’ kids get to become farmers? 

I couldn’t find a post-it note, so I wrote my ‘world view’ on an old label and stuck it to the side of the bookcase in front of my favourite corner, where I can see it every time I sit down to write. I’ve already learnt to ignore it, but I’ve held this belief for years, so it was probably a waste of a perfectly good label.

2. Pick your platform personality

This had me utterly bamboozled until I realised he was talking about blogging, which, he argues is key to making it as a writer (should someone tell Zadie Smith she’s got it all wrong?).  To blog successfully, he says, you need to choose one of five blogging personalities. They are:

1. The Journalist: who ‘builds his platform on asking questions. The only requirement for this type of platform,’ Goins says, ‘is curiosity.’

2. The Prophet: who ‘builds her platform on telling the truth. The requirement for this type of platform is a passion for authenticity.’

3. The Artist: who ‘builds his platform by creating art — whether it be music, painting, or entrepreneurship. The requirement is an eye for beauty.’

4. The Professor: who ‘builds her platform on facts and information. She does extensive research until she has achieved mastery. Of course,’ Goins accepts, ‘there is always more to learn, but this type of person knows more than most. The only requirement is a longing to learn.’

5. The Star: ‘perhaps, the oddest type of platform to build (and the most visible) is that of The Star.’ Goins states. ‘Now, don’t misunderstand this. These people aren’t just famous for being famous. They are known for being charismatic, naturally likeable.’

Which one am I?

I am curious, I like asking questions, and solving problems. In fact I’d say I’m endlessly enquiring, to the point of being somewhat irritating at times. Few people want to hear, ‘but why…?’ from an adult. Maybe I could be The Journalist?

As for The Prophet, as much as I’m interested in the truth, I’m not sure I know what it is. The truth about what? For whom? In what situation? No, I don’t think I could ever be The Prophet. Though, it’s true, I do have a passion for authenticity.

And The Artist? I create art, yes, and I’ve been told I have an eye for beauty, whatever that is, but I don’t think I could run a blog exclusively based on the art I make. Most of what I do involves moving sentences around, breaking them up, adding or subtracting words, trying to get them to say what I want. I can’t see that being interesting enough for one blog post, let alone every single one I write (unless I really get into Oulipo). I’d need to share other people’s output too, and that would mean, a) selecting and, b) seeking permission. Eek!

While I do have a longing to learn (that endless curiosity), I don’t think I could be the Professor. I never know if I know enough. However, I don’t think the Journalist and the Professor are that different, it’s just that the journalist starts from a position of not knowing and thus discovers or learns. While The Professor, or so it seems, is already in a position of deep knowledge. Maybe I could build up to that, in half a century or so?

I won’t even consider The Star, for all I know I may be charismatic and naturally likeable, indeed people do seem to like me, but how do you base a blog on that? ‘Hello Fans, let me tell you how I’ve been charismatic and naturally likeable today!’ No chance.

It’s likely I’m a bit of all five, even The Professor – I do know some stuff – but probably not quite enough of any one of them to base my ‘platform’ on. So I think my best chance is to be a hybrid: the Curious-Authentic-Artist, and see where it gets me. 

I’ll let you know how I get on with that, and try to follow a few more of the twelve steps for next Friday.

But before that, on Monday I’ll authentically, maybe curiously, and hopefully artistically share the story of how I hacked out a story in a week.

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