Four things Elizabeth Gilbert taught me about writing

Posted March 4th, 2014 by in

Me and Liz

Me with Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s not often you get the opportunity to meet someone you admire.

But this week I had the pleasure of meeting my one of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Seven years ago I picked up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love and couldn’t put it down. Strangely, I discovered the book after returning from a 6-week trip to Europe, my first solo journey abroad. As expected, I related to the story well because I was in the right head space at the time of reading it. But I also found myself appreciating Gilbert’s talent for writing in such an eloquent yet concise manner. I feel I have learned a lot from reading her prose.

Elizabeth Gilbert signed my 7-year-old copy of Eat, Pray, Love.

Elizabeth Gilbert signed my 7-year-old copy of Eat, Pray, Love.

I went along to an event held in Melbourne which turned out be a lovely evening of music and conversation between Gilbert and her good friend Rayya Elias.

Gilbert shared some particularly insightful advice on what has influenced her writing and writing habits. Here are the key things I learned from her:


1)   
Write for one person only

While Gilbert couldn’t offer pointers on how to structure a book, such as using a specific formula or technique, she did offer an interesting piece of guidance.

“Writing for only one person, so you can engage the reader on an intimate level, is my best advice,” she said.

When you write with intentions to help or serve a large and diverse audience, it becomes a difficult task to fulfil.

Instead, write for an audience of one and you will be able to engage on the deepest level possible, advised Gilbert.


2)   
Be wildly ambitious

Gilbert said her ambition allowed her to be fearless when sharing her writing with others and when pitching her work to editors.

At the age of 18, Gilbert started sending short stories to editors at magazines and newspapers to get published.

“I was never afraid to be ambitious,” she said.

But don’t confuse ambition with being competitive, warned Gilbert.

She spoke of her ambition as her motivation, drive and eagerness to succeed but equally understood that ambition is closely aligned with challenges and requires effort.

“Learn early on that neither rejection nor failure nor criticism will kill you,” she said.


3)   
Manage your creativity

Gilbert said she commits to a single project at a time so she can give it her full creative attention.

She also believes that creativity is on offer everywhere you go.

Gilbert said a single moment or idea can offer inspiration but that it’s up to the individual to commit to it to make something of it.

Gilbert said creativity is best executed when it can be collaborated, whether that be with another person, in the form of a piece of art or, in her case, with her writing.

“Creativity and inspiration is a living force and we co-habitat with it,” she said.


4)   
Narrow your focus

Gilbert said she never doubted becoming a writer. “It (writing) was my one source of stability,” she said.

For Gilbert, the writing path has been straight and narrow, and she refers to her love for her work akin to the kind of love mothers have for their children.

In many ways, this narrow focus worked in Gilbert’s favour because she admits she was not distracted or pulled in different directions by other talents or interests.

“I’m very lucky because I’ve only ever wanted to do one thing with my life and I’ve only ever been good at one thing. I’m not interested in anything but writing and I’m not good at anything but writing.”

 

What is the most helpful thing you have learned about writing? Share it in the comment section below.

 

Zoe Foster talks beauty writing

Posted November 21st, 2012 by in

She’s enjoyed ten years working in the beauty industry. She’s had an outstanding magazine career and worked for publications including Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR, primped.com.au and Mamamia. And she is an award-winning novelist.

She is Zoe Foster.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Zoe at a beauty workshop held by Revlon at Myer, Melbourne. I took the opportunity to have a chat to her about her career as a beauty journalist.

Beauty guru Zoe Foster speaking at the Revlon/Myer makeup workshop. | Photo: Sharon Green

Beauty guru Zoe Foster speaking at the Revlon/Myer makeup workshop. | Photo: Sharon Green

When Zoe first started out in her journalism career she did not know that she wanted to be a beauty writer. She studied media and communications at university and on graduating she landed her first magazine gig at kid’s title Mania, before moving on to Smash Hits. She was then approached by Mia Freedman and asked to work as a beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, which Zoe says came about in an interesting way. “The reason Mia hired me was very telling – she said ‘you don’t know anything about this [beauty] and that’s going to bring a great tone to the magazine’.”

Zoe admits that this was the best way to start out with beauty writing, by knowing nothing about it at all, because it forced her to research harder and find out more about products. From her experience working in magazines, Zoe unveiled her passion for beauty and her willingness to share that information with others.

“I started my blog Fruity Beauty back in 2005, and blogging was very primitive back then. But it seemed to me like a good way to have a one-on-one conversation with women, because you learn so much as a beauty editor. You meet so many experts in the field and you learn so much. I just didn’t find there was enough space in the magazine [to explore all of this] so I took it online. You’re learning, you’re learning, you’re learning and as you go, you change what you think about things. So you’ve got to pick and choose what you think works for you.”

For those wanting to break into beauty writing Zoe advises keeping on top of the latest beauty trends, and attending makeup workshops and events is a great way to start. She recommends speaking to makeup artists as they are an excellent resource that aspiring beauty writers have access to at a makeup/beauty counter or at a department store. “A makeup artist can teach you so much, if you just sit down and have your makeup done. There are so many things you can learn from them.”

Zoe also believes it is vital to stay abreast with what is happening in the beauty industry. “Just keep writing. And keep reading – there are so many good blogs out there that you can read. To be a good writer, you’ve got to be a good reader.”

Me with the lovely Zoe Foster. | Photo: Sharon Green

Me with the lovely Zoe Foster. | Photo: Sharon Green

Following an exciting career working in magazines, Zoe seems to have carved her niche. She’s forged her own path, made a name for herself, and is now enjoying working on independent projects. “I’m always writing. I’m writing my sixth book at the moment. I’ve always wanted to have a column and write books and I’ve finally moved that way. So beauty is something I do for fun now. I write on Fruity Beauty and just have fun with it.”

Her book Amazing Face is a bible documenting all the tips and tricks Zoe has learned as a result of working in the beauty industry. “I wanted to realign how everyone was thinking about beauty. And it’s kind of got me back to basics. But a lot of women just need to get back to basics.”

But what is it about Zoe that makes her so likeable? Her quirky writing style, bubbly personality and impressive career undoubtedly have a lot to do with it. And, perhaps, the fact that she is taking things in her stride and is, as she puts it, “just having fun with it”.

Findings from the 2011 Freelance Industry Report

Posted September 15th, 2011 by in

Source: 2011 Freelance Industry Report by Ed Gandia

The 2011 Freelance Industry Report was released this month and shows some interesting findings about the nature of the profession. As most of my readers know, I have written about freelance journalism in the past and the topic has remained of interest to me. While the data in this report reflects the US freelance market, there’s no reason why we can’t learn a thing or two from the information gathered regardless of our geographical location. In a nutshell, I have put together a summary of the major findings with a specific focus on freelancing across the journalism and editorial spaces:

 

> Who are freelancers and what do they do?
Interestingly, writers composed the biggest professional category of freelancers (18%), followed by copywriters (12%) and editors/copyeditors (6%). Of the survey respondents, 72% of freelancers were based in North America, 13% lived in Europe, 6% lived in Asia and 3% were from South America. Australia accounted for only 1.2% of respondents while 0.3% of respondents were from Oceania.

While the freelancing profession attracted a wide age range, from teens through to people in their 60s, the largest represented group in the survey was the 30-39 year old segment (28%), closely followed by those in their 40s (25%) and 50s (24%).

An overwhelming ninety per cent of freelancers work from home while almost 8% work either in a private office away from home or in a shared work environment.

 

> What are the biggest challenges facing freelancers today?
Twenty two per cent of participants said finding clients was their biggest challenge. Interestingly, obstacles such as getting paid on time (4%) and competing against lower-cost freelancers (3%), which are commonly cited as having reached alarming levels, were not among the top-ranking concerns for freelancers in 2011. Looking deeper into the data, copywriters (32%), cited that they were more likely to struggle finding clients than peers in other fields. Staying productive is also a big concern for writers (13%) and editors named “getting out of the feast-or-famine cycle” as a top challenge. European (26%) and African (25%) freelancers cited finding clients as a top challenge while maintaining work/life balance is a top issue for freelancers in Oceania (50%).

 

> How do freelancers find work and source clients?
Freelancers cited the most effective methods for sourcing and landing work was via word of mouth (23%), referrals, and tapping into their own personal and professional networks (17%). Online job boards (9%) such as Elance and oDesk ranked above networking (7%), social media (3%) and cold-calling (2%).

“When it comes to clients, the overwhelming majority of freelancers (75%) go after businesses. However, 16% work mainly for individual consumers, 6% work for non-profits, 2% pursue government work and 1% focus on associations.”

 

Source: 2011 Freelance Industry Report

 

> Fact: Freelancers are more satisfied with their lifestyle
Forty-eight per cent of freelancers have more free time now than they did as an employee and 59 per cent are happier now than they were before becoming self-employed. In fact, 54 per cent said that they wouldn’t even consider working as an employee again, regardless of what the job paid or what it entailed. But don’t be fooled, freelancers are hardworking professionals. One-third of them work more than 40 hours per week and another 26% work 31-40 hours per week.

Twenty-six per cent of respondents said they chose to freelance to have more freedom and flexibility, while 21% said it was mostly about following their passion. Almost 16% said they wanted to be their own boss. Interestingly, almost half of the respondents reported having more free time as a freelancer. Fifty-nine per cent of writers and fifty-seven per cent of copywriters reported getting the most free time after going solo.

 

> Freelancers earn healthy rates for their work.
Although the range varies widely, 45% of freelancers earn between $20-59 per hour. Furthermore, 26% earn $80 or more per hour and 17% earn $100 or more per hour. When it comes to pricing and billing for their services, 60% of freelancers quote and charge flat project fees. One-third bill by the hour, 5% work mostly on retainer and 1.7% employ more creative performance-based models. Hourly rates vary however, writers (18%) and editors/copyeditors (22%) cited earning between the $50-59 per-hour range while copywriters fell into the $100-150 per-hour range.

 

> Social media ranks as top tactic for freelancers
In the coming year, freelancers plan to engage in social media (46%), utilise their own personal/professional networks (46%) and encourage more business via word of mouth (43%). It’s interesting to see social media climb to the top of this list for future marketing plans – perhaps an indication of its value when it comes to self-promotion, exposure and using innovative ways to source clients?

To download a free copy of the 2011 Freelance Industry Report, visit: http://www.internationalfreelancersday.com/2011report/

Welcome to my new website!

Posted July 8th, 2010 by in

Copyright Sharon GreenHello and welcome to my new website! This has been part of a developing project over the past three months as I have been working towards launching my own freelance journalism and writing business. Of course, the website is still in its early stages and I’m sure lots of changes are still to come but I thought it was best to launch it now instead of putting it off to a later date.

Those of you who know me know that I am passionate about writing and producing high quality stories of a journalistic nature. I’m about to embark on my final semester at university and am working towards completing a Masters degree specialising in journalism and new media research. So it is here that I will document all things related to media and journalism that I feel are relevant to my studies, research and general interests. I’d also like to use this blog to share my articles with you as they are published, document experiences I encounter in the freelance writing world, and other thoughts or musings.

I welcome you to follow this blog and encourage you to help me spread the word. I recently read in an article posted on Journalism.co.uk that as a freelance journalist, it is important to:

Make everyone you know on earth fully aware that you are a journalist looking for work.

So I will publicly announce, here and now, that I am a freelance journalist available for work and seeking opportunities within the media industry. Tell everyone you know, for the power of word-of-mouth is great. This website is a testament to just that. I’m also keen to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, writers and journalists via Twitter and welcome new followers to my profile @SharonJGreen.
Until my first official blog post, I welcome you and look forward to interacting with you online.

Sharon


© 2010 Sharon Green. All files, words, content and articles on this site are the intellectual property of the writer and no person is authorised to copy or reproduce the material without the author’s prior consent.