Talk, talk, talk

I write, and I talk too

Thanks to melch, I had the opportunity today to blather on to impressionable younglings about freelance writing. Talk about being out of practice since my teaching days. I forgot how much of an adrenalin rush it is from the minute one is "on", as in: "Here's the stage --- you're on!" One minute I was introducing myself, ten minutes later I realised I had finished the first part of my talk, which was fine, but was panting for breath because I'd been rattling away so fast, which was nosso fine.

The 400 ml of water in my Nalgene bottle? Nowhere near enough to get me through a 40-minute talk plus Q&A plus the five or six kids who wait to ask the speaker questions at the end.

Some interesting points that came to me extemporaneously:
  • What are important qualities to be a freelancer? "Discipline. Discipline, discipline, discipline. The kind of discipline that gets out of bed and at your desk at 8 am even though you don't have to meet a client. Being comfortable with uncertainty, i.e. not knowing now what I'll be doing in July. Knowing how to sell yourself to clients and potential clients (Asians very shy one). Work hard, do good work."
  • Which writer do you want to be like? "Easy question. [Then I tell a long and pointless story about the book of popular history I'm co-writing.] Answer: Bill Bryson. He's light-hearted but a serious writer. [Naturally, it seemed like most of the audience hadn't heard of him, though melch made a pitch for his books being in the library.] He takes culture, history and all sorts of information about a country --- and puts it in an accessible and entertaining package for the reader, even if you've never been there."
  • Who is your favourite writer? "I have so many favourites. PS: Favourite writer and writer whom I want to be like are two different things. I love Shakespeare, but I could never write like that. PS: I'm reading a biography of Shakespeare right now, that's why I've got Shakespeare on my mind. Okay: [I forgot the first name I mentioned], Jonathan Frantzen, Alice Munro --- hang on, I'm running through my bookshelf --- Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth ... Okay, that's five. You can go and find out more on your own."
The unexpected things I said:
  • "If you do bad work, one day it might come back and bite you in the --- okay, I think I'm not supposed to say that word, but you know what I mean, right?"
  • "I mean, I live alone, so I can work all day, not see anyone except my cats --- oh wait, that makes me sound like a crazy cat lady, right?"
  • "Eh, can you all stop talking? I am the one doing the talking."
The last point was when the audience of fidgety students got too chatterrific. It's kinda scary how teacher mode kicked in instinctively.

Now I just hope I didn't preach the gospel of freelancing too ardently, because it certainly isn't the ideal work situation for everyone.


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At 4/11/2008 4:01 am , Blogger Jess said...


i do recall the "rattling away so fast" bit!

At 4/11/2008 12:51 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

once i have time, will compile students' written comments of your talk. many thought you were really smart ;)

At 4/12/2008 12:53 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Bryson ROCKS.

At 4/12/2008 5:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

There can only be one Bill Bryson! I mean, two Bill Brysons! Aiyah, OK lah, you be Bill Bryson lah. I go and be David Serdaris.


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