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What Community Theater Taught Me About Freelance Writing

My name is Susan, and I am a recovering musical theater nut. That's right. Back in high school, I spent most of my waking hours either in rehearsal or in class (where I was probably thinking about rehearsal). I didn't have one of those t-shirts that said, "I can't, I have rehearsal," but that would have nicely summed up my teen years.

I still perform on occasion and my iTunes library contains far more musicals than anyone I know. But I no longer have the irrational desire to perform four different shows in six months (in retrospect, why would anyone think that is a good idea?). Recently it dawned on me that spending so much time doing community theater as a teen probably taught me some of the skills and traits that I now use as a freelance writer. Here they are.

A thick skin. There were several roles that I desparately wanted but didn't get, even though other people thought I'd get them, too. I still believe that I should have played Laurie in Oklahoma! but that's beside the point. I knew there'd be other auditions for other roles in other shows, so my disappointment was short-lived. Sometimes I'd go to auditions just to get the practice. If I didn't apply that same attitude towards query letters, I would have given up years ago!

Time management skills. My castmates always remarked on how I managed to juggle schoolwork and rehearsals (but hey, many of them had kids and pets to take care of and I didn't). Some of them initially assumed that I had a mediocre GPA until they saw me working on geometry proofs or conjugating Spanish verbs in between scenes and during intermission. Whatever downtime I had, I used. I didn't need silence to finish my homework, and I still managed to be salutatorian. Being able to use a few minutes here and there helps me get through my to-do list, even when they are distractions.

The ability to tap into objectives. For copywriters, it's really important to understand who their customers are and what motivates them. For magazine writers, being able to adapt to the publication's voice and write to different types of readers is key. Playing a variety of characters, including a British flower seller, an all-American teeny bopper, and a Biblical-era leper, helped me slip into different personas in my mind so I can tailor my writing to that specific audience.

What about you? Did your childhood hobbies help you develop the skills you now use professionally?

Photo of me as a flower seller in My Fair Lady

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