The Tip Jar: Lessons from the Writing Trade

As the publication date for my first book, Paddlenorth, approaches, people are asking what I’ve learned so far in this writing business. I’ve compiled a list of the top five tips I’ve gleaned from others (in no particular order).*

1) Let them decide, Tim Irvin

Tim is a dear friend. We’ve had many adventures together and he knows a thing or two about finding grizzly bears, taking photos and using a map and compass. Tim has these words taped to his computer.

They remind me that while it’s my job to create, there’s a time to let others decide what they think of my work. There is no way for me to know that or to control it. It’s simple, but it’s a good reminder. Do your bit and let others do theirs.

2) Pick one or two people to trust and do what they say; ignore everyone else, Chris H.

I met Chris in Alaska, but he lives in L.A. He’s in the TV business and had edited some shows you might recognize – like this guy, and these guys. He lives in Hollywood, which, to me, is like living on Jupiter; and he knows what it’s like to get lots and lots and lots of career advice. And it can really get to you.

So I recommend doing what Chris says. Find some people to trust and really trust them. Let them in, let them help you, take their advice. Learn and grow with them. And you don’t need to listen to everyone else, in fact, don’t (but I do recommend being polite).

3) It’s a personal relationship with the work, Ian Brown

I asked Ian how he deals with feedback on his work – which is constant, given that he writes for the Globe and Mail, and he’s not prone to keeping his opinions to himself; this is what he said.

I think of it this way: like any other relationship, a lot goes on between us and our work. We negotiate with it like we do with family members, and it’s so personal we can’t expect others to understand.

4) How will they know how good you are if you don’t tell them?, my Dad

This one is a family classic. Advice given to me before every job interview I’ve ever had. Starting when I was a sixteen year old camp counselor.

Remember that people don’t know you, and there probably isn’t anyone waiting in the wings to tell them who you are. You have to do that part, even if you don’t want to – especially at the beginning of something new.

5) There’s no such thing as a once in a lifetime opportunity, Measha Brueggergosman

Measha B. is the real deal – a diva, a creative force, a magnet. When she told me that this idea is part of her personal philosophy, I felt so inspired. Does this ever take the pressure off! When you are on your path, according to her, what is meant to be will come around. So you don’t have to take every little step so seriously.

Even if you don’t believe the destiny part, this is a good one to try on for a while, and relax.

BONUS: “You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it.” The Sandiford/Higgins family

I can’t pinpoint exactly how this applies, but I can tell you that many times during the writing of Paddlenorth this  jumped into my head. And it helped.

*Phrases used may not originate with these sources, but these are the people I learned them from.