Weekend Edition – Optimism, Being a Pro, and Niche Audiences

robin williamsActing Out Optimism

My daughter and I had just returned from our first trapeze class after a year’s absence from “flying.” It was late (we’d stopped for dinner on the way home), and I was whirling around the kitchen, simultaneously shooing her into the shower, feeding our two cats, and having a quick catch-up call with my beau. In the midst of the chaos, I heard my beau say, “It’s awful about Robin Williams, huh?”

Before I could answer I had to pause to holler up the stairs at my daughter (again), and aggressively tap the remaining bits of canned cat food off the spoon I was wielding. “What?” I asked. He explained. About the death. About the suspicion of suicide. None of it registered. I made some meaningless response, something about it being a terrible tragedy and such a shame; and then I said I’d call back later and hung up.

Early the next morning, still tucked in under the covers, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed in an effort to come fully awake. As I read the dozens of posts honoring Williams and grieving his death, I began to cry. Even now, as I sit here typing this post, tears are welling up.

I’ve come a little unglued.

After all, I did not know Williams personally. I have been a fan since his Mork & Mindy days, but I haven’t even seen all of his movies. I admired him and his work; but I if you’d asked me a week ago to name my top ten performers, he wouldn’t have made the list. And yet, knowing he is gone broke something in me. Like so many other people I’ve talked to, I find myself unexpectedly touched by his sudden absence.

I’m still processing my emotional response to this loss. I’m still trying to figure out why of all the heartbreak in the world, the loss of this one entertainer has left me so bereft. I need some private writing time before I can share my thoughts with more clarity. There is one quote of Robin’s, however, that I would like to share. There are so many making the rounds on the Internet now that he is gone. I think the one that I’ve seen most often is “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lost it.” Though I love that one, there is another that I find more intriguing, “Comedy is acting out optimism.”

Despite all the death and injustice and sorrow in the world, despite being locked in constant battle with his own demons, despite the intense pressure of life that we all feel – whether we are Hollywood icons or simply a member of the PTA – despite all of this, Williams chose laughter. He chose joy and kindness and generosity. In the face of all the darkness, he chose light. And he shared that light with the world. This, to me, is the highest purpose of any art – to express hope and optimism.

I think Zelda William’s said it perfectly in her lovely statement about her father:

“Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls Ive ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.”


What I’m Writing:

tweet conv professionalsI continue to swim upstream against a strong current of crunchy deadlines for fairly intense projects. I’m grateful for the work on my plate, but that gratitude does not dispel the stress that comes along with juggling multiple clients and projects.

Last week, I had a quick little Twitter exchange with fellow copywriter, Donnie Bryant. I had never met Bryant, but a quote he tweeted caught my eye, “Amateurs wait for inspiration; professionals do it with a headache.” It just so happened that on the morning I read that quote (as retweeted by Craig McBreen) that I was sporting a doozy of a headache and was working off of only four hours’ sleep. Though I felt physically awful, Bryant’s quip made me smile.

Though I am now and always will be a work-in-progress as an author and storyteller, I earned the right to call myself a professional writer years ago. It wasn’t the caliber of my clients or the monetary value they placed on my work that gave me the confidence to call myself a pro. It was the fact that I always got the job done. No matter what. A hobbyist has the option to say, “Not today. Maybe tomorrow.” A dabbler can decide to go to bed early instead of staying up to meet the deadline. A poser can happily act the part without actually producing anything. But a professional? A professional must deliver. An MIA muse is not an acceptable excuse. A sick kid is not an acceptable excuse. A headache is most definitely not an acceptable excuse. If you’re a professional – paid or not – you get the work done. Period. End of story.

It’s that simple, and that hard.

What about you? Do you call yourself a professional? Is that even important to you? What’s your take on being a pro vs, being a dabbler?


What I’m Reading:

faerie magWhen I’m not so exhausted that I’m falling asleep on the way upstairs to bed, I am still managing to fill any remaining nooks and crannies in my day with small but still joyful moments of reading. I am not, however, finding making enough of these moments to get through some of the bigger reads I have on my plate at the moment.

So, while I continue to enjoy those in bite-sized morsels (and will share here once I’ve finished off the last, delicious bits), I’ll share with you today a little diversion that arrived at my PO Box this week: Faerie Magazine.

It happened like this: I was scrolling through Facebook (geesh, I seem to spend a lot of time on Facebook), and saw a picture of a beautiful fairytale cottage. (It may have even been fellow Live to Write -Write to Live blogger, Wendy, who posted it. I’m not sure.) Anyway, the image had been shared from the Facebook page of this beautiful print publication. It was rather late at night and I was struggling with the day’s final deadline, so – of course – I decided to take a little side trip via a click to the magazine’s site. A few minutes later, I was a subscriber.

The reason I share this with you is to illustrate the power of the niche audience. This is a beautifully produced and written print magazine (supposedly a dying breed) that is on its 27th quarterly issue, so it’s been in print for nearly seven years now.

If you have a passion for a particular topic or genre, there is a publication out there that is serving other people who share your passion. In fact, there are probably multiple publications (especially if you consider both digital and print) catering to the exact audience who would most appreciate your writing on that beloved topic. Find these publishers. Get to know their work and their readers. You never know when you might find a perfect home for the writing you love to do best.


And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

spark madness williams

Here’s to hope and optimism and finding the courage and joy to let your spark of madness shine. 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

28 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Optimism, Being a Pro, and Niche Audiences

  1. I didn’t expect to be touched by Robin Williams’ death the way I was either. That came as a shock.

    It took me a while to call myself a writer, and consider that I am as such on a professional level. Being published during the past couple of years has helped me believe in my credibility. I know I still have room for improvement as all crafts and persons are work in progress to a degree, but I know I am a professional.

    I still feel as an amateur on the fiction writing style, but I am hoping that the upcoming year changes that!

    Have a great weekend! 🙂

  2. Beautiful words about Robin Williams. I also found myself more affected by his death than I would have predicted.

    This jumped out at me: “Amateurs wait for inspiration; professionals do it with a headache.”
    I did little writing yesterday because I had not severe yet annoying migraine. I received a new flash fiction challenge and forced myself to complete it, and it spite of the headache, I felt better. So maybe that means I’m a pro! 🙂

    • Thank you, Allison.

      Good for you to get past your migraine and write anyway. I’m glad that made you feel better, and I think that you get pro points both because you pushed through and because the writing made you feel better. 🙂

  3. Robin was looking at the dark side of his life. However if he had seen how many people he could help with his illness he would choose to live. I heard that he had early stages of Parkinson and of course depression.

    • No one will know if anything could have saved Williams, but we know that while he lived he helped so many people in so many ways. He will be much missed.

  4. Beautiful thoughts about Robin Williams and so true, plus I appreciate the links you provide, as always! I read Karen Gillespie’s blog and was reminded that I haven’t done my morning pages in awhile. However, with all the school supplies on sale now, I have a lot of spiral notebooks waiting for me! 🙂

    • Thanks, Heather.
      I know what you mean about school supplies. I’ll be heading out to do a little shopping with my daughter and I predict that I’ll come home with some new pens and notebooks for myself, too! 😉

      Enjoy your morning pages!

  5. Love, love, love. Thanks so much for the inspiration and for sharing your thoughts in regard to Williams’s death. I took it similarly to you-I never loved him as an actor but the more it all sinks in, the more I feel that something precious and fragile has been taken from us, and I don’t only men his life. Very sad.

    • Beautifully put. It’s so interesting to me how many people were unexpectedly touched by William’s death. There is some deeper need at play here, I think.

      Thanks for sharing.

  6. I’ve recently found the Faerie Magizine on Facebook too this month! There is an art form to words and pictures in print. Maybe I should write, there is something “magical” about seeing pictures and reading stories about Faeries!

    • The issue I’ve been reading is just lovely – to look at and to read. I love the fact that there is an entire magazine devoted to all things faerie!

  7. oh yes, Robin Williams death hit me terribly hard as well – I was teary for days. I like how professional and dedicated you are to your writing – but I am not sure that I would us that word to describe my own writing. As I have practiced the art of writing, and become clearer about what I am trying to express and my style I use, I have certainly become more dedicated and disciplined. Maybe that’s what being professional means! I particularly liked the five pieces of advice to becoming a better writer and the brain pickings article. Have a good week, Jamie.

    • You, too, Sara? I actually teared up at my hairdressers.

      “Dedicated and disciplined” is definitely a big part of being professional. Maybe there needs to be a distinction between “professional” (as in monetarily compensated) and “committed” (as in devoted at the level of a professional – or even beyond – but not necessarily paid). Something to think about …


  8. Pingback: Links: Writing, Feminism, Toy Industry | Natacha Guyot

  9. You’ve said it so perfectly – I had nearly the exact same reaction to the news of Robin Williams’ death. I was numb first, and then slowly I started to process it. I didn’t know him, and yet it hit like I did. It’s hard to explain.

    • It is hard to explain, but it’s a theme I’ve heard over and over from so many different people. I think he represented some of the best parts of humanity and we are feeling that loss as deeply as the loss of the man. I don’t know. Still figuring it out.

  10. Thanks for the point about niche magazines, what a neat idea. Will definitely look into that, for something other than food, or flowers or fancy pastry, tantalizing, but not my writing niche!

  11. Loved the Robin Williams quotes and yes it was definitely sadder and less colorful since his passing … Definitely one of my top ten … Have you seen The Bird Cage? Definitely chose laughter.

  12. Pingback: Weekend Edition: Love Your Mistakes Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips | Live to Write – Write to Live

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