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Keeping Your Art While Earning a Living as a Freelance Writer

artYesterday I wrote about Krista Tippett’s  Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with that book even though I’ve barely finished the first chapter. Later in the day I read How to Battle Impostor Syndrome: Owning Your Writing as Art by Marian Ryan over at TheWriteLife.com.

You see, Tippett’s writing is the finest kind of artistic writing for me. It’s non-fiction, about things I care about, and I love the lyricism in her writing voice, the thoughtfulness of both her approach to esoteric topics and her obvious love of her readers. She takes such care to speak to us clearly and carefully!

“That’s how I want to write” is a significant part of my internal response to Tippett. Not in her voice, but in my own. And once in a while I do.

Sometimes I don’t know how

Like Marian, I’d like to do that kind of artful writing more often. Sometimes I don’t because I don’t know how. Yesterday, for example, I wrote this as a description of the finger food potluck we’re having here where I live. I said this:

What kind of potluck did you say?

Bring your favorite finger food to share. It might be savory, or it might be sweet. It might be simple, or it might be more complicated – totally up to you.

Now that’s a serviceable bit of writing but it’s far from truly artful. Jill, who is co-organizing this event suggested this:

What kind of potluck did you say?

Bring your favorite finger food to share – something that can be easily picked up and munched (without plates or utensils). It might be savory or sweet, simple or complex, home-made or store-bought. It’s up to you. It’s not been done here before, so we may be starting a new tradition.

Jill’s version is much more artful than mine.

I might be excused in this case because Jill actually makes finger food and cooks. She loves to make delicious cookies; I love to eat them.

Writing as art takes time

I find that I’m very good at dashing off something that will do. Maybe it will be more than good enough, but it isn’t art. I know it’s competent and better than many people can produce, but it isn’t as satisfying as when I get conscious of what my soul wants to say.

I think that’s the difference – I have to be willing to dig a little deeper, get in touch with some real emotion inside me, something that causes a tingle or a shiver or an ‘oh’ of surprise as it comes out my fingers onto the page.

That kind of writing does take more time, but you know what? Often not as much time as I’m afraid it will.

The divided self

Marian talks about the split she feels between the writing she does for pay and the writing she does for herself. I think she’s done a credible job with her suggestions of how to help honor her creative writing side. It’s definitely worth a read – more than that, I’d be surprised if you didn’t find some action you could take.

My take, however,  is we’re not really divided so much as we tend to think we are because of where and how we focus. My theory is that we can bring art or our creative selves to anything we write if we only decide to do so. Even the descriptions of industrial equipment, or whatever other strange and probably boring piece of writing we’re doing to satisfy some company’s need for some writing.

It’s only a theory because I’ve written plenty of routine stuff without ever considering if I could bring some art to it, some real creativity while staying on point.

I’m going to experiment and see if this proves true for me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’d like to hear your thoughts of letting your art show through your writing.

Write well and often,


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