Readalong :: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letter to a young writer

you've got to sell your heart. f scott fitzgerald quote

I’m fascinated with the written word. Especially words that provoke us to think, feel and believe. How is it that some writers us lift us higher, move us to tears or change our world view simply through the act of stringing a sequence of letters together? This is a question every copywriter, content marketer and social media manager needs ponder. But I think the answer to this is below.

In 1938, college sophomore Frances Turnbull sent a short story to family friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. Below is his response to Frances, as recorded in F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters:

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November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories ‘In Our Time’ went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In ‘This Side of Paradise’ I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming — the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent — which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

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Again, this is a reminder that it is only when we are vulnerable, that we truly connect with people in ways that matter. For me, I’m one for living and giving ‘the works’. That said, I disagree with F. Scott when he talks of the solider who is only a little brave. I am interested in him. I want to know why he is only a little brave, and not brave with a capital ‘B’. I’m sure there’s a good story behind that.

This post was inspired by Brain Pickings.

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CONTENT MARKETING AND SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS WORKSHOP

social media and content marketing workshop

Let’s get our social mojo on in
Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane in October!

Join me and Belinda Langler for a creative and interactive workshop for businesses, exploring social media and content planning ideas and challenges.

At the end of the workshop you will walk away with a defined social media and content strategy, and an actionable plan. You’ll feel more purposeful, structured and clear about how to use social media in your business. And it will be fun! There will be coloured sharpies. There will be snacks. There will be lots of post it notes.

Topics covered with include:
:: Social Media Audit
:: Defining customer personas
:: Defining brand stories
:: Content Audit
:: Developing a content calendar
:: Tools for managing & measuring social media
:: Q&A session for specific questions

Numbers are limited to ensure each attendee has their specific needs catered for.

For more information and to book your ticket, click here.

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