Monday, January 25, 2010

Escaping the Freelance Habitrail

"Whenever aspiring writers ask me for advice, I usually tell ’em this: Don’t just write there, do something. Learn how to shingle a roof, or tap-dance, or raise sled dogs. Because if you don’t do anything, you wind up [someone] for whom words are props and codes and metaphors but no longer expressive of anything real."
--Mark Steyn

Whether or not you embrace author/commentator Mark Steyn's worldview or political leanings, there's no question that he's an incisive and vivid writer. The point he makes here is an essential one, because it points toward the value of being a multidimensional human being, not just a skilled rearranger of words. We are the sum of our experiences; as a writer's career progresses, a danger lurks in remaining immersed solely in the world of language. It's where we're comfortable, often too much so.

I'd argue that it's even truer for those of us who transact in the corporate realm--clients dig insights that come from outside the advertising/marketing Habitrail. Reading about diverse topics can help, but nothing tops experiencing something out of the ordinary, or even experiencing the ordinary itself.


  1. Good point, Jake! Those of us who spend our days camped behind our computers are always in jeopardy of spinning our word wheels--and nothing else!

  2. Agreed Jake. Now let's escape the habitrail and catch up! We've got lots of ground to cover!!

  3. Thanks for weighing in, y'all!

    @Bruce, if I had any Photoshop skills whatsoever, I could have put myself in a hamster wheel.

    @writesalgal, have your people call my people & we'll do lunch.

  4. Excellent insight. I noticed myself when I was feeling fallow a few years ago, it was a new experience that brought my creativity back to life. Since then I have vowed to never let my life get too routine - to push myself to try new things, even if it makes me uncomfortable.