You’re a Human First, and a Writer Second
By Briana Hansen
Writers are always looking to stand out. We want to stand out in our pitching. We want our ideas to stand out. We want our voice to stand out. We hope that by standing out amongst the ever-crowded field of fellow writers, we may have a better chance to get represented, to get staffed, to get our work optioned, or, honestly, just to start working regularly as a writer.
Yet sometimes in the pursuit of our desire to live as a working writer, we lose sight of the rest of our humanity. We serve only the writer and not the interesting person who comes up with ideas for the writer. We serve the worker who toils away typing and not the person who lives a life that the writer finds interesting. We worry only about the person who spends hours outlining, making notecards, brainstorming on whiteboards and aggregating notes, and neglect the person who feels the emotions the writer then attempts to convey on the page.
It’s vital for our creativity, for our life (and for our ongoing longevity as writers) that we don’t forget the rest of our interesting, whole, and imperfect human selves. We need to give ourselves a break when we really want to take a walk the day we promised ourselves we’d do nothing but write. We should let ourselves relax when life comes at us hard with all sorts of challenges we never saw coming that get in the way of our concentrated creative time. We have to let ourselves enjoy gatherings with friends and loved ones (even if they’re physically distant at the moment), and not beat ourselves up for not using every ounce of free time to write.
We are humans first, writers second.
When pitching, writers often worry, “What happens if we chat too much and I end up having very little time to actually pitch?” That’s one of the best things that can happen! Sure, the pitch didn’t go as you expected. But, to be fair, they hardly ever do. Sure, you may not have had enough time to explain every detail of what happens in your story. But, to be fair, it’s difficult to encapsulate that in a pitch of any length. And, sure, you may have felt like your time is wasted on something superfluous outside your writer self. But, to be fair one last time, the person listening to you is as much of a human with varied interests and hobbies outside of this biz as you. The fact that you found something outside of writing to connect to and chat about is a boon, not a hindrance.
Pitches that are “cut short” due to genuine conversations tend to end up in, at the very least, a memorable connection with a new contact in this industry. And while it would of course be awesome for that person to have fully heard your idea, they are now much more likely open to hearing about all your ideas since they have a much better sense of who you are.
Don’t get me wrong – you have to work hard in this industry. You have to want it. You have to think about it all the time and be obsessed with it in order to really gain traction. There’s too much competition to simply rest on your laurels or to assume that just because you did something right once, people will notice or care.
But that doesn’t mean your obsession has to be all-encompassing. You can be both interested and interesting. It requires balance, which of course means an ongoing process that we don’t always get right.
But we’re humans first. Our imperfections and strange experiences are what make us unique, intriguing, and different. After all, it’s remembering our humanity that truly makes us stand out.