Season 4 – epiBLOG 13:
“What happens when two writers walk into a bar…” No, I can’t do this. I’m not a comedian by any stretch of the imagination. However, please feel free to fill in whatever punchline that you feel can knock your socks off at the end of that joke. Place it in the “comments” section of this post. I’d love to read what all of you have to share.
Writers are in bars… at schools… at libraries… at coffee shops with their laptops, sipping on some Mocha Frappuccino or Caramel Macchiato concoction while dreaming of the best way to use words to express what they want to say next. They are everywhere. And it’s evident that we thrive on what they produce. Blogs, articles, movies, books, poetry, advertising on billboards, email marketing, and written speeches for government officials, just to name a few. Society needs a writer to do something somewhere all of the time.
Writers are an intriguing group of artists – a special kind of artist. They can make you cry, laugh, or ache by simply organizing the words on the page in such a way to create the images in your mind that allow you to experience a variety of emotions that are all part of the human condition.
I’ve been doing these interviews with my Professional and Successful Artists Series for nearly a year now. My main reason for doing them is so that I can provide valuable information to my subscribers and loyal readers in order to help them along their journey to make a living doing what they love.
I never thought about how all of these artists are having such a positive impact on me to the degree that they actually are, especially with having had the opportunity to speak with another fellow writer — David Laurell.
Not only is David a phenomenal writer, but an all-around genuine human being that has this tenderness in his voice that makes you believe that the impossible is possible (as long as you’re willing to do the work). The authenticity in his sharing and experience as a writer draws you into his words like a great piece of literary fiction or a compelling dramatic film.
David is currently working for three publishing companies, ghostwrites books for people, takes on any large or small project that someone brings to him that he believes he’s the best suited writer for the job, and he writes a newspaper column for the Los Angeles Times Community News. He is currently working with the actress Marion Ross (“Marion Cunningham” from the sitcom Happy Days) on her forthcoming autobiography My Days: Happy and Otherwise. Listening to his words definitely gave me a different perspective, and I’m sure they will do the same for you.
Today’s topic is on my interview with the awesome writer David Laurell.
Nitara O: When you show up in the world, how do you see yourself? Describe yourself in three words.
David L: As a person or as a professional?
Nitara O: Professionally or personally.
David L: Observant. Compassionate. And kind.
Nitara O: (chuckling) Those just rolled off of your tongue.
David L: (smiling) Yeah, and I know those may be more personal attributes, but I also apply them to what I do professionally. I see myself being an observer on behalf of those who are not “there.” In other words, those who were not present where a “story” had happened. At the end of the day, I consider myself to be a storyteller. I could be professionally telling a story in the medium of print or sitting around a table having dinner with some friends of mine and telling them a story. I hope that what I share makes people feel like they were “there.” In that moment of the situation that I’m describing.
Nitara O: I suppose that’s what writers do – great writers, anyway. They use words to create another world in another person’s mind.
David L: Right. I hope that there is an element of information, emotional impact, enjoyment, and maybe a laugh or two. And whatever time they invested in reading what I’ve written or having listened to what I’ve said, I hope that they walk away feeling like that was time well-spent.
Nitara O: Well said. Fair enough.
David L: I think it’s interesting the take that you are bringing to what you’re doing with your blog in stating that a writer is an artist. A lot of people do not think of writers as artists. Or maybe they do if someone is writing poetry, lyrics for a song, a novel, or a screenplay. But there is a certain type of art in every type of writing. You can be a hard-core journalist or a business-to-business writer and still be employing an element of artistic ability. You’re still incorporating the art, not only in observing and listening, but the art of putting those words together.
Nitara O: Do you feel you were born a writer or do you feel you just stumbled upon this career that you happen to have fallen in love with?
David L: Like so many other disciplines of the arts, of the sciences, or frankly, of anything… People who are building contractors, plumbers, lawyers… they are all practicing an art that they were inclined to have an almost innate passion for and an understanding of how to do. I think everyone who decides to do something has someone who mentors them, trains them – maybe they go to school and get professionally educated. Then, as the years go by and they continue to do what they do, they get better.
Nitara O: That makes sense, but illustrate your point with an example.
David L: My brother is a building contractor – and no matter how many courses you put him through at the greatest universities on the planet, my brother is never going to be a good writer. Conversely, you can teach me how to build a house or lay cement to build a driveway, and it’s just never going to be something that I have within me. It’s just not a part of my DNA. I’m never going to have passion for that. So, I think with anything that we are inclined to do, we have this gene that we are born with to be interested, passionate, and good at some things rather than others.
Nitara O: I can definitely buy into that point-of-view. So, all of us are inclined to do something, correct?
David L: Yeah. You know what – I hire writers. I deal with writers. I work with writers. I am a writer. The thing with being a writer is that it’s the only profession where if you have a pencil, a piece of paper, or a computer you can “claim” to be a writer. You can’t claim to be a plumber unless you do plumbing. You can’t be a doctor unless you’ve gone to medical school. But anyone can claim that they are a writer. There are many people who can put words down on a piece of paper, but that doesn’t mean that they are a writer.
Nitara O: Right. Because it’s how you organize those words… how you convey those words.
David L: Absolutely.
Nitara O: I’m going to transition in a different direction here. In your biography that you sent me, you make a reference to the film Forrest Gump. Is that one of your favorite films, and if so what type of impact has it had on you?
David L: I would consider Forrest Gump to be one of my favorite films because I can relate to the character. I relate to him because I have never seen myself as some great intellect… My math skills are rudimentary. I’m just an average guy who grew up in Brooklyn who was never outstanding in anything,
Nitara O: But you’ve experienced so much. You’ve accomplished so much.
David L: (smiling) Well, like Forrest, through an extremely odd set of circumstances that have happened to me in my life, I had the opportunity to work with Bill Clinton before he became president of the United States. I became an elected official in my own city. And I have interviewed hundreds of individuals who have left a mark on the twentieth century into the 2000s. Individuals who had an impact in this country, in this world. In entertainment, sports, and politics. So, I appreciate your comments, but I still feel like your average, run-of-the-mill guy who has had some extraordinary things happen to me.
Nitara O: You’re humble and accomplished. Great combination.
David L: Just like Forrest Gump, there’s a little destiny happening… a little feather blowing and landing in one place as opposed to another that probably dictates our life more than anything that we plan and plot to do.
Nitara O: That’s profound. My favorite character that I relate to is “John Nash” in the film A Beautiful Mind. He was a mathematician genius. I hate math. I’m not good in math, but something about that character drew me in and I connected with him.
David L: I can see that. I believe we all relate to a character that’s the underdog in one way or another. I identify with characters that have dealt with challenges. I’m sure you’ve seen the film Joy.
Nitara O: I love that movie! I’ve seen it six times. I’m a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan.
David L: Here is someone that got constantly knocked down over and over again to the point where you say, “There’s no way she’s coming back from this one.” But she does. She became a successful inventor. And it was based on a true story. Joy – the main character – she never gave up.
Nitara O: Now that you brought that up, what do you think that is within someone – when they are at a turning point in their life – that makes them want to keep moving forward in the face of adversity? What is it within them that has them keep on going?
David L: I want to say – and I could be wrong… but I believe it was Woody Allen that said, “90% of success is simply showing up.” I think to a large extent, that’s true. I deal with a lot of “writers” who contact me and tell me that they want to write a story about this… or about that… I know an awful lot of people that when they find out I’ve written books, they tell me about this book they plan on writing. But they never actually sit down and do it.
Nitara O: Yeah, there are a lot of talkers in the world, but very few that follow through.
David L: If you want to be a writer, you have to sit down in front of a computer screen and key board and churn out words. A page becomes three pages… becomes 20 pages, becomes 50 pages, and becomes 30,000 words, and so on. If you don’t work, you’re not accomplishing anything, much less being a writer.
Nitara O: I agree.
David L: In today’s world there’s no excuse. Between social media and a blog, you can become your very own publisher or media empire.
Nitara O: However, there is some sort of disconnect. There’s some people who want to stop pretending to be the big online guru to actually “accomplishing” and having the monetary equivalent to go along with that. They have the opportunity to move forward or to simply turn around and say it’s not worth it.
David L: As far as the monetary aspect is concerned… whether it’s acting… or specifically, writing… but any of the arts… If you are going into this profession because you think there’s great monetary gain, you’re making a horrible mistake.
Nitara O: Elaborate.
David L: I think if you’re very lucky… (thinking) There are people out there who are talented in music, theater, in writing – you name it — who have not made significant money or who have not received significant success in their lives. The ones who do are the ones you hear about. These people are part of a very small, select lucky group. And if you can get to become a part of that group because of talent and luck, that’s wonderful. But if you’re chasing the dollar instead of doing something out of pure passion, the arts are not where you should be.
Nitara O: What options would these “money chasers” have?
David L: Find a career that has some sort of appeal to you to make a living and then do your writing or acting on the side. If you feel like you want to be a writer, actor, or a painter… do it as a hobby. Look into Community Theater or writing for your own personal pleasure.
Nitara O: So, if you want to do this for a living, but are realistic in your approach and are chasing your passion instead of money, is success on this level achievable in your opinion?
David L: Even people who are accomplished and “make a living” at writing don’t necessarily see great fame or great wealth from their work. You have to decide what is most important in your life. I can’t tell you what that is for you.
Nitara O: Well, you work with several writers. You said you hire them. In what capacity are you working with other writers?
David L: I hire freelance writers. That is the way of the world in the publishing business right now. If someone pitches me an idea or if I have a story that I need covered and I think someone will be the appropriate or the “right” person to do it, I would think any writer would be thrilled to do a story that they know is going to get published. I know that I am. But I deal with people who are “writers” who I’ve called up and let them know there is a story that would be a good fit for them or that I have an idea that they might be good for. We talk for a bit, and I’ll say my budget for this story is $500. I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “I don’t work for $500.” My response to those types of people are, “Really? I do.” If I feel I can do a great job writing the story, why wouldn’t I do it?
Nitara O: This is the reason I wanted to segue into this. You provide writers with paid opportunities and they aren’t taking them. Many times artists are standing in their own way of success.
David L: Yeah, they really do at times. You never know where opportunities can lead you. Plus, making $250, $300, or $500 for writing a story is more money in your pocket than you had yesterday. The first time I sold a professional story and a photograph, I was 10 years-old. It sparked something inside of me. Back then is when I first started to think it was possible for me to make a living interviewing people and writing a story around their interview.
Nitara O: Right then your destiny was sealed.
David L: Yeah. It really was. I’m making a living as a writer. You have to look at it like this: if you get $1,500 from one company, $2,500 from another company, and $200 or $500 from another, it starts to add up. If you keep doing that over and over again, before you know it, you have a career. You make a living as a writer one writing project at a time.
Nitara O: Thank you, David. That’s exactly what I needed to hear. And what so many other writers and other artists needed to hear from you. Thank you for your honesty and sharing.
David L: My pleasure. Always happy to.
Today’s LESSON is to be authentic and honest with yourself about what you truly want out of your career.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: Write down 2-5 genuine reasons why you are pursuing the artistic career that you are currently pursuing. These reasons can be as selfish or selfless as long as they are honest. After you create the list, take the time “to be present” with your own personal priorities as an artist and strategize on some ways of moving forward.
David Laurell continues to write, and resides in Burbank, California with his wife.
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