A few weeks ago I watched Kung Fu Panda on DVD with my sister. It’s animation, good to kill the boredom and apathy sick days bring along.
What I didn’t expect – even after watching it at least a dozen times – was the amount of precious advice it carried and how wonderfully it could be applied to freelance writing.
Master Shifu’s 5 Lessons
At a certain point in the movie, Master Shifu, the martial arts trainer, observes his mentees’ performance and tells them what skills they need to hone to master their Kung Fu: five skills that freelance writers need to sharpen, too.
Ferocity. Be a little aggressive when you pitch. No, I don’t mean you have to be arrogant, insistent or bossy with your clients, but you need to be clear and to the point about yourself and your value: don’t be submissive if your client insists that you work at a lower rate or asks for too many extra edits or wants more material to be covered. Fight for yourself.
Speed. The faster you type, the more work you can chime in. It’s important to develop a decent typing speed, but there are other speeds we can improve too: research time, interview time (when possible), planning time, focus time. The more efficient you get, the more money you earn, the faster you’ll scale up your earnings.
Height. Do you need to increase your rates? Perhaps you do. You can always earn more, and the best way to do this is to keep up to date with new markets (Google Alerts, Writers Markets, etc.) and to compile a list of top paying clients to pitch.
Subtlety. Be subtle. Not in the malicious sense (that’s no way professional!) or physically (that’s your personal choice), rather mentally: clean your mind from all the clutter and you’ll see your work taking on a different, brighter life. When I free my mind from thoughts and anxiety (i.e. that “I have more articles to write later. Aargh!”), each piece automatically ups in quality and time optimization.
Humility. Master Shifu tells his Panda mentee that “the mark of a true hero is humility”. Be proactive in your business, but know when to stop and listen, too. Read other writers’ work, attend webinars and conferences, engage in writers’ forums and learn something new. Also, be supportive of readers’ feedback and writers’ advice. Being humble doesn’t mean subjugating yourself to others’ will, but to take all the possible good from the feedback you receive. It will help you grow as a professional — and as a person, too.
What writing lessons did you recently learn from animation films and movies? Share your pearls.