Write with someone in mind. I recently heard an interview with Cameron Crowe, one of my favorite writers, who gave the advice of “Write like you’re writing a letter to a close friend. Make it personal.” I wish I had heard this advice earlier, as sometimes I get so caught up about the perfect thing to write. When I take the route of pretending like I’m writing to a friend, it makes everything flow so much easier.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Taylor Leddin. Since the age of 17, Taylor Leddin has been working as a freelance writer for a number of national outlets. She is the editor-in-chief of The Tidbit, where she has had the pleasure of interviewing entertainment industry professionals, from Tony Danza to Dale Midkiff. Taylor — who resides in Chicago with her cockapoo, Teddy — has her Bachelor’s in Communication Studies from Illinois State University, and recently released The Time Capsule Journal.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
As far back as I could remember, I wanted to be a writer. I was always writing — short stories, lists, recollections of the day. I loved looking through the weekend newspaper before I even really understood what the words said. When I would hear a new word, it would become second nature for me to try and learn how to spell it with my finger. English and reading classes were the only parts of school I enjoyed, and, when I was in high school, I got to further the enjoyment by joining the school paper and yearbook. This continued into college when I became a copy editor and news reporter for the university’s paper. When interviewing a professor for a profile on his career, he said, “so, you’re a journalist, huh?” And the sound of that set off an electric current in my brain that hasn’t turned off since. There is not a day where I don’t write.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I’ve done a lot of freelance journalism — something I still dabble in — but I eventually got the urge to start my own website that focused on content I was interested in. This turned into The Tidbit, and I made a major portion of the site is dedicated to celebrity interviews. Having the opportunity to interview some of my favorite celebrities, including Tony Danza, has really been a dream come true.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I used to make the mistake of sitting down with an audio interview and spending hours transcribing every single word. Eventually, I realized that all I needed to do was go through the interview to get the important quotes, and take bullet point notes on everything else. This has saved me so much time!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
There are always some fun features and interviews brewing over at The Tidbit. My big project at the moment is my new book, The Time Capsule Journal, which is available Amazon.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
A big habit of mine is simply sitting down with a pen and a fresh sheet of paper. I’ll write down tasks I need to complete and any ideas that pop into my head. Carrying around a notebook and pen with me everywhere I go has allowed me to take notes on ideas that spring up on the go. Another thing I do is keep a notebook of new words that I learn — sentences and story ideas can be inspired by a simple word.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
I kick the book off with an introduction about how the concept of The Time Capsule Journal came to be. In high school, I had this hardcover, blue and green journal that I wrote entries, quotes, jokes, and kept photos in. With graduation and my 18th birthday around the corner, I was hit with the idea that it would be interesting to fill the journal with as much as I possibly could of what I was interested in at the time. When I was done, I put it in a shoebox, and wrote “Do Not Open Until 2022” on the side. I haven’t looked at it yet, and have filled out a few other time capsule journals in the last few years, all with their own open dates. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to share the concept with others, and published The Time Capsule Journal.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
The idea behind this book is three-fold: it encourages people to get to know themselves better, to explore their creativity through writing, and to see how they’ve progressed over time.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
I can’t say I’m at the point of bestselling, but that’s certainly a goal! The biggest challenge I face with writing and publishing — whether it be a book or an article — is finding ideas that I’m truly passionate about, because that makes all the difference. I can write drivel all day long, but when lightning strikes, that’s when you have to sit down and write until you can’t anymore — worry about editing later. The Time Capsule Journal is a concept I’ve been working on and enhancing since 2012. When I finally figured out a way to share it with others, I sat down and wrote and wrote — and jotted down ideas when I was away from my computer — until I was done.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I draw inspiration from everything. Anything from a beautiful poem by Matthew Arnold to the description on a cereal box — anything with words is inspiring to me.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
Wow, this is a great question and something I admittedly don’t have an answer to. All I can say is, if someone reads something I wrote and it happens to make them smile, laugh, or think, then I’ve done my job.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
It takes time, passion, and honesty. Don’t write what you think people want you to write, but write how you feel and what you know. Write like crazy, and revise even crazier.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust for feedback. When I first started, I was a bit too stubborn to ask for feedback and/or proofreading from friends. I eventually learned that part of being a writer means being able to accept criticism. And, it never hurts to have a second set of eyes for proofreading.
2. Take time every day to read. I wish I had taken more time in the past to read each day. Once I re-discovered my love of reading in my twenties, I noticed it helped make me a better writer. It inspired me to try new styles and new vocabulary.
3. Be prepared for rejection. I have pitched ideas, stories, and interview requests time and time again — most of which don’t even receive a response. If they do, it’s usually a rejection. But, every once in a while, it’s a yes, and that’s what makes it worth it to keep trying. For instance, I wrote a short play that I turned into a short story a few years ago. I pitched it to over 20 anthologies in a short period of time. They were all rejected until one accepted the piece on my 20th birthday. It’s kept me going through the decade.
4. Save everything you write. Whether it’s handwritten or electronic, save everything. This allows you to go back and see how you’ve progressed as a writer. I wish I had kept my writing assignments from school to see how my writing has changed.
5. Write with someone in mind. I recently heard an interview with Cameron Crowe, one of my favorite writers, who gave the advice of “Write like you’re writing a letter to a close friend. Make it personal.” I wish I had heard this advice earlier, as sometimes I get so caught up about the perfect thing to write. When I take the route of pretending like I’m writing to a friend, it makes everything flow so much easier.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
In high school, we had to fulfil a certain amount of volunteer hours in order to graduate. I wish more businesses and companies would make an effort to work with charities and would encourage more volunteerism from their employees. This could even be done on work time, as a major reason people don’t volunteer as much as they’d like is because they’re too busy. To anyone reading this, take a second to think about how you could pay it forward today and how you can make time to help another.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Taylor Leddin links:
The Tidbit: www.thetidbit.online
The Time Capsule Journal on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2TDpgNW
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.