I’ve recently seen the disaster flick San Andreas starring Dwayne Johnson and had a total blast.
Sure, it has clichés. But it is one fun ride that left me pumped up about my freelance writing career and life in general.
Below are some of the moments in the movie that can teach us a good deal about freelancing:
(Note: There might be some minor spoilers, but nothing you can’t guess from the trailer or your experience as a moviegoer.)
Life is Short – So You Need to Get Over Your Fears and Do What You Need to Do Now
Whether it’s sending that pitch letter, moving to your dream city or attending that writing conference, you need to get a move on. Obviously, it’s desirable that you don’t live on a potentially destructive fault line, but the point is, we never know what life will bring us.
So, what moment is better than now to go after that gig you want or to send that LOI?
You know the difference between being ready and over-thinking things. Do the first, not the latter.
What moment is better than now to go after that gig you want?
You Need to Have Skills in Multiple Areas
In the movie, the hero is a rescue pilot who can also get off the plane and rescue people himself, ride a boat, swim, hold his breath for a reasonably long time, etc.
His skills make him the best at what he does, as well as the boss. It ensures he can save the lives of a young woman, his wife, his daughter and two others. He also helps a lot of people stay out of harm’s way with his knowledge.
As writers, we can’t just “write”. We need to know how to market, pitch, manage our presence on social media and have interpersonal skills. We need to keep learning, adapting, staying positive and more every single day. But guess what? So does any successful person.
Being successful isn’t easy and it requires more than one skill.
Dwayne Johnson is a former wrestler who works out 4 hours a day to maintain his body. He’s also proven to be hilarious, as well as (generally speaking) a box office magnet.
Being successful isn’t easy and it requires more than one skill. Even Hollywood actors (hell, especially Hollywood actors) don’t have it easy. Why should we?
A Nice Hook and a Different Slant are All You Need to Stand Out
People complain about the clichés in the movie, which is a little like complaining two people have a happy ending at the end of a romantic movie, or there was a murder in a murder mystery.
There are certain things you need to put in a disaster movie: a heroic protagonist, survival of the family/main bunch we’re rooting for, impressive effects, some humor and so on.
There will be many more disaster movies, most (if not all) involving clichés, just like we’ll keep reading and pitching articles about similar topics.
But, how do so many writers get article assignments despite the zillion articles and writers that came before them?
By finding a decent slang. A different angle.
By adding something personal and unique to them, just like San Andreas destroys some clichés quite perfectly:
- The stepfather isn’t evil. In fact he is dashingly handsome (played by Ioan Gruffudd) practical, wealthy, helpful and reasonable…until his life gets in jeopardy. He is also arguably prettier than the lead.
- The girl isn’t a damsel in distress though she does get in danger quite a few times. She also saves her newly-made friends a few times. They survive long enough to be rescued because she was smart and knowledgeable. And the reason she couldn’t save herself in the beginning? It was physically impossible, and it would be for pretty much anyone else.
- The nice guys (and girls) finish first.
In one of the pre-disaster scenes of the movie, she meets a cute British guy. They obviously like each other. But there are no games or overt flirting. They are nice to each other. And it pays off. Big time.
I’m sure there are others, but San Andreas mainly managed to be my favorite disaster movie by doing these three things differently. And this is how we land most assignments.
How do I do this in real life? Well, the most recent example would be this article.
A Powerful Structure and a Thick Skin Will Bring Favorable Results
Yes, we need some kind of structure when we write, so the ideas aren’t just random scramblings that don’t feed off each other. They need to be linked.
The movie version of San Francisco’s buildings come down like they were dominos. I’m no scientist, so I have no idea if an earthquake of those proportions would cause that much damage.
But in 2015, I sure hope we are building structures that are stronger than we see in the movie. As for your writing career, I have complete faith in you.
Do you, though? Because you do need a thick skin to persevere after rejections. We all get them, for one reason or another.
How does Dwayne’s character handle the news of his daughter making plans with her future stepdad? Coolly and nicely. He does a bit poorer, albeit still stellar job of reacting to his soon-to-be-ex wife’s news.
You do need a thick skin to persevere after rejections.
But, he doesn’t throw a tantrum, an actual punch or an insult. He demonstrates self-control, just as we need to when we’re reacting to or handling our misfortunes, such as rejections or no replies.
Don’t Obsess Over What’s Not in Your Control
You should do your absolute best when querying and handling your assignment. And after that, you are allowed to feel a little sad and disappointed if things don’t work out the way you hoped. But that’s it.
In the movie, obsessing over the one person he couldn’t save has cost our hero his marriage.
Don’t give up on your career. Don’t also waste precious time worrying about stuff you can’t control. Concentrate on your next move instead.
So, tell us, what traits do you need to make it as a freelance writer?
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