Wil Wheaton is a writer and actor who shares his stories through regular updates on his blog. I find his writing inspiring and valuable, so I’ve decided to share with you some lessons I’ve picked up from him that freelance writers (or freelancers in any field) may find useful.
Let yourself ramble – sometimes.
Wil has been known to occasionally allow himself some rambling space on his blog. I’ve found that some of my best writing comes after giving myself permission to write anything at all – even if it didn’t fit the assignment. That paper on Lake Champlain I got an A on in college? It started as a letter to my professor telling him how much I hated the assignment. It gave me a chance to fill the page, pass the first hurdle, and get started on the work at hand. (Of course, the difference is that Wil’s “rambling” is still readable and wouldn’t get him expelled from school if his professor read it!)
“Read” the works of others.
Many famous authors advise reading as a source of inspiration. Wil does a lot of his reading through audiobooks, proving that you don’t have to sit still and “read” to get the benefits of exposure to others’ works. Wil writes: “One night about three weeks ago, while driving home and listening, one phrase he spoke came out of my speakers, hit me in that part of my brain that makes me want to be a writer, and knocked out a story idea that has refused to let me do anything else until I bring it into the world and make it real.” Very cool, and the resulting story might never have happened without another author’s words to kickstart the idea.
Know when to start over.
Sometimes, the work isn’t going as planned, and the path it takes isn’t interesting or useful to the final result. You are not alone in this, and Wil provides context on the many authors who have written about creative exhaustion. It takes a brave person to be able to look at this thing they’ve been toiling over, set it aside and start anew. And, it takes a smart person to not completely delete the original efforts – because you never know when a phrase or thought may become useful in another context!
Wil consistently reminds me that even the best writers are human, and he never fails to admit when he’s made a mistake. Not just admit to it, he genuinely apologizes, and explains his correction. Like in this blog post, where he corrects himself for misquoting fellow author Neil Gaiman. The slip was over one word, but – as Wil explains – that one word makes all the difference in the meaning. The lesson: admit mistakes, be genuine, and explain what you’ve done to correct the problem – even if it seems minor.
Wil is an unapologetic geek. In fact, he’s pretty darn proud of his geekdom and shares his experiences from a decidedly geeky point of view. By being himself in his writing, Wil can write about the things that truly interest and engage him – like role playing games, good books, and his family.
I have never met Wil Wheaton, though I own a signed copy of “Just a Geek” because I have wonderful friends who met him while I was stuck at home with a nasty headcold. Therefore, the commentary made in this entry is mine, unless otherwise noted. My heartfelt thanks to Wil for sharing his experiences through his writing.