Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Writer Grows Up

Becoming a writer is like going through puberty. Both involve confusion, social awkwardness, and uncertainty. Both involve other people reassuring you that you are normal. And both involve writing things in your journal such as “I feel so rejected. I am so depressed.”

But becoming a writer abroad is like going through puberty and childhood. At the same time. On the one hand, you’re this little kid, barely speaking the local language and on the other hand you’re this teenager trying to define yourself and your place in this new world.

Writer Abroad has emerged from both puberty and childhood (although she still has her moments in both worlds) and has learned that it helps to do an adult thing, like make business cards. These will make you look serious and feel professional. Lawyers have them and they feel important. Why shouldn’t writers?

If this is your first time, take it slow and make the cards yourself. Sites like allow you to choose designs or upload your own. You can even order ten test cards to make sure you like your new self.

Once you get a little more serious and committed to your literary identity, it’s time to pay an experienced designer to help you brand yourself. Or offer to trade services—you write copy for her and she creates a card for you. Writer Abroad just did a trade like this with a Switzerland-based British designer and is thrilled with the results. She now has a new logo, new business cards, new letterheads, and more. She really feels all grown up.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Writer Abroad is 16 days behind, but here it is: Happy New Year. Thanks to everyone for making Writer Abroad’s first full year on the big wide web an adventure. I’ve enjoyed meeting writers from around the world and exploring how to survive and thrive as an international creative person.

Speaking of surviving while thriving, maybe it’s just Switzerland, but the economy seems to be exploding lately. I’ve been so busy since the New Year began that I’ve had to forgo a ski trip, leave a Sunday brunch early, and turn down a writing opportunity. But I’m not complaining. I love what I do.

Freelancing is always tough because there are usually two situations: way too much work or way to little. Neither is ideal. Right now I’m dealing with the former, trying to balance copywriting projects during the week with magazine deadlines, agent queries, novel writing, blogging, and workshop planning on the weekends. Which doesn’t leave me with much of what normal people would call a weekend. But somehow, I’m still having fun.

I first became a mother of a multi-tasker as an undergraduate in college, when I double majored in music and advertising. I once had an advertising class on one side of campus that left me only five minutes to get to the other side of campus for my opera workshop. My opera instructor was never happy that I didn’t wear skirts and high heels to class like all the other sopranos, but it was either tennis shoes or tardiness.

Things haven’t really changed much since.

On that note, I am always interested in guest bloggers. Please contact me if you’re interested in writing a post for Writer Abroad.

How do you handle multiple projects?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Happy Americans

I can't understand what everyone in America is so happy about. Unemployment is high, the government (and many people) are in debt, and foreclosures abound. But still. The Americans smile, grin, and greet you loudly, happily. Maybe I’ve been in Europe for too long now, but I was shocked at the friendliness of my countrymen during a recent visit to Chicago. No one can be that happy to clean my teeth. Or rent me cross-country skis. Or serve me root beer with extra ice.

On one hand, the friendliness was a pleasant change from all the straight-faced Swiss. But on the other hand, it was kind of disturbing. It took 4+ years of living abroad, but I can finally understand why the Swiss thought I had mental issues when I used to exude enthusiasm over anything—even work.

Which naturally leads me to writing. This experience, learning to see things from a different perspective, is great for writers. I am now seeing the United States through the eyes of a European. That’s priceless. Unlike a new arrival or vacationer, I no longer gape at the Swiss when they ignore my smile, I go back to my country and stare at my smiling fellow citizens instead.

And then I grin. Because every writer should be so fortunate to see themselves this clearly.

Maybe that’s why research at INSEAD demonstrated that going abroad enhances creative thinking. Living in Switzerland has definitely made me a more creative person–at least I know I've become more empathetic to other cultures and ways of living. What is your experience with creativity and going abroad?


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