“What’s past is prologue.” — William Shakespeare
I’m a big fan of living in the now and not dwelling on the past, but I also think that our pasts are excellent teachers. This is poignantly true for writers; virtually every experience we’ve ever had can become research. If nothing else, our past experiences led us to where we are. For most writers I know, this is an insanely fabulous thing.
Modeling and writing may not seem very comparable—other than the fact that in both, one can arrive to work in PJs—but my years in fashion did prep me for writing in numerous ways. In addition to providing endless fodder for my blog posts and fiction, here are five of my favorite takeaways:
1. Self-doubt shows. (And it’s often best to ignore the audience.) The first time I tried walking on a runway before my agents and other models, it was as though my legs were foreign creatures I’d never before utilized. Every part of me wobbled awkwardly, more so the harder I tried to force grace. The same can happen in our writing. The more we think, “Please don’t let this suck,” or “I hope they like it!” we’re pulled from the page, and words we use routinely can seem difficult to maneuver. It’s normal to have some level of insecurity about our work, but fixating there, instead of on our craft and stories, can keep us from
falling off the runway producing our best work.
2. “No” is part of the deal. I’ve joked that I could hold an honorary Master’s degree in rejection because I’ve dealt with it hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times. After my first casting, after which I waited longingly for the phone to ring (it never did), I learned that my job was to simply to show up and bring my best game. When I booked five to 10 percent of the jobs I was up for, I knew I was doing well. As writers, pleasing a small percent of readers is pretty darn awesome! We can’t make everyone happy, but we can satisfy the heck out of some. And each negative response from a publisher, agent, editor and reader is one “no” closer to a positive.
3. It’s not personal. When I was transitioning from modeling to acting, I auditioned for many roles that specifically called for models (who could “handle dialogue” LOL). I studied my BUTT off for a lead in an oh-so-Shakespearean piece entitled Zombie Strippers. I came close to booking it when a celebrity entered the equation and POOF! Gone were my half-naked zombie dreams… *sigh* Maybe the celeb had some serious acting chops, but regardless, I knew the decision wasn’t personal. She would draw in far more cash than a no-name actress. Many decisions affecting writers function similarly. Harsh feedback often has very little to do with us, and critical feedback can help us grow if we let it.
4. Fake (some of) it until you make it. When I was in the thick of the high-fashion world—New York, Paris, etc.—I knew extremely few confident models. The industry attracts women with insecurities. But we could all fake it. We had to, or we’d never book a job. Over time, most of us could “turn it on” when necessary. I believe that we’re writers the second we decide to be and start writing. (Forget “aspiring.” I’d rather perspire. And more importantly, WRITE.) I’m not suggesting dishonesty, but I do think that we occasionally have to believe that we’re stronger and more capable than we realize. Very likely, we are.
5. Writers are damn lucky! A fellow approached me at the gym the other day and asked what I was working on. (As usual, my elliptical machine dashboard was a mess of pages and pens.) I explained that I was editing. “Oh, you’re a writer. You really missed the boat. You could’ve been a model or actress.” He probably meant it as a compliment, but honestly, writing is many steps up from modeling and always has been. Models are seldom praised for who they are and what they do. Dependent on others, they’re like canvases on which others’ art appears. That’s fun and all, but as writers, we’re artists! How incredibly cool is that? Artists change the world, man. I don’t care if I sound like a weed-smoking cheese ball; it’s true. (I’ve never smoked weed, Mom. Don’t worry!) When we cherish what we do, we’re better able to make the most of it.
What do you think? Do any of these lessons resonate with you? How has your past career prepared you for writing?