Getting Started

Good stuff regardless of what you think about John Grisham’s writing talent. Two of my favorite pieces of advice: You need to have a life first so you have something to draw from and you need to consistently produce work.

There Are 24 Comments On This Article.

  1. My favorite (and motivational) statement: “If your not writing a page a day, your not serious about writing.” – Thanks for this hook-up, I missed this interview on PBS.

  2. I dunno. While I watch this I just can’t disregard what I think of his writing talent. He’s probably right about a lot of the things he says and I suppose even good writers generally are able to produce a page a day but I still can’t stop thinking that he should’ve kept it a hobby (although he’s vastly better than Dan Brown).

    I understand where he’s coming from when he says “get a career and a paycheck first” but that might say more about his personal upbringing than it does about being a writer. Afterall he’s more of a lawyer who writes than a writer who practices law.

    • @j., ‘Kept it hobby?’

      The guy made zillions and sold millions of books. Don’t you think he would have been insane if he’d kept that talent a hobby?

      • @duckrabbit,
        Of course I meant better for us not better for him. Like I said, I’m not a big fan.

        I did exaggerate a bit, though, as he seems to produce some decent stuff as far as popular literature is concerned. Unlike the riduculous Vatican conspiracies and cheesy teen-vampire romance novels out there his books at least make for some good movie entertainment.

  3. Very true that. I think that no matter what you do, it is good advice to follow. While I did read some Grisham back in the day (could take it or leave it), what one thinks of him shouldn’t taint the advice one way or the other. :)

  4. I really love his advice about writing the one page a day. I feel that translates over to photographers very well, in that one should be taking photos almost everyday. At least, I attempt do that. haha.

    On the other hand, the having a career comment, struck me odd when I try to translate it over to photography. Photography is my career. There is nothing else I want to do. I have often felt that having an ‘office job’ would be time I wouldn’t be spending on projects. Although having a regular paycheck would be nice. Of course, I could just be talking out my ass. haha.

    – Aaron

  5. That reminds me of a similar Steven King interview where he said “amateurs wait for inspiration, professionals just get to work.” That quote has always stuck in my head.

    I think any profession where you don’t have a boss (or client) breathing down your neck can be challenging to get your butt in gear sometimes. You can turn out some surprisingly good stuff on days when you really aren’t in the mood.


  6. What do you mean a life? Jane Austen lived with her sister, never married
    and stayed home. Louis Carroll taught at a boys school his whole career – If he had married, he would have been fired.
    Great art is also created by people who never leave the couch, they grab it
    out of nothing.

    • @Chris Gould, Yours is a bewilderingly uninformed summation of Jane Austen and Louis Carroll’s lives. Good luck on your couch. Thanks Rob for the inspiring video.

          • If you mean Lewis Carroll, then he was a mathematics lecturer at Oxford, as far as I know. Either way, he seems to have found himself a role in life, and the writing and photography came after.

    • @Hasnain Dattu, Not so fast. There is a difference between developing a discipline to produce on a daily basis and publishing on a daily basis. I think you want to publish only the stuff that feels right. You see people with POTD galleries that are pretty mediocre — “here’s a shot because it’s Tuesday.”

      I don’t think Grisham was saying you have to publish something every day. I think he’s just saying you have to develop the discipline to produce on a regular basis.

  7. Tom, I do agree that the Grisham process can produce a lot of mediocrity but the ability to put work out there for comment, especially on places like Flicker allows younger photographers to get some feedback, and develop a style.

    I shoot as a process of breathing. I produce a lot of work that does not end up on my site and thereby miss the chance to show people what I do outside the stream of my studio. Luckily with stock, I have an outlet for my work. I do not show work that is not in my stream of vision, but I should show things which are new and that I would not normally show within the structure of my portfolio.

    Yes Grisham was talking about developing a discipline. Publishing on a daily bases takes it to another level. The mediocre galleries you mention are all people who are trying to sharpen their skills. And the important thing is that they are trying.

    Also, a good example of someone who creates one image a day is Sam Javanrouh whose website, daily dose of photography, has become one of the most prolific photo-blogs on the web. Because of his dedication to his passion (he has a full time job other than photograph) he has a strong following of people who look at his site on a daily basis. He has published books and is now shooting jobs for various clients based on the images shown on his site.

    It’s not hard to take one picture a day…it is hard to create one really beautiful image a day. Perhaps, what I am trying to say is that do what Grisham says but also, show your work as a means of learning and educating yourself.

    • @Hasnain Dattu, Obviously whatever works best for you is the way to go. Grisham’s advice is just advice.

      I have a serious problem with falling in love with the last thing I shot. After a few days I often come to my senses and realize an image isn’t that great after all. So I’m not sure publishing something every day will work for me. A 5-day “cooling off” period seems to work better.

      To your other point, Web comments are, at least to me, a questionable feedback mechanism. I suppose you could argue that any feedback has value. But Web comments tend to reward technically strong images of traditional subjects — pretty pictures if you will. Things that are different are often viewed negatively. Hence if you are trying to develop a unique style, taking Web comments too seriously can be very counter-productive.

      • @Tom, I hate what I shoot most of the time. At least after that five day period. Usually its the comments I get from my contemporaries that validate my initial gut instinct before I rationalize myself into oblivion.

        You are absolutly right about the value of all feed back, but you will find feed back that is poinent and concise. It is those comments that help create.

        I don’t mean to preach though it sounds like it…I love photography and I am going to make it my mission to put more work out there. Hopefully I will know what to put on my webiste, and what to show on public sites.

        • @Hasnain Dattu, Funny, I love everything I shoot — at first. Then I grow more contemptuous as time passes. Beyond the comments of people I respect, Web comments don’t sway me very much.

          I have images I still like — even though they never receive positive comments in public forums. And there have been images I’ve pulled even though they received a lot of positive feedback.

  8. I think it’s more realistic that photographers work on projects that don’t necessarily require you the shoot every single day but work towards days where you make lots of images. The POD’s that I’ve seen just don’t have a practical professional application beyond of course learning and sharing with other people who are learning. A novelist who produces a page a day still needs to put it all together and edit it then have it edited by someone else before showing it off.

    • @A Photo Editor, I see Web snippet interviews and often wish I could ask more meaningful follow-up questions. For instance, I wonder how many times Grisham re-writes the same page before it becomes a final draft?

      To throw out a fortune cookieism: “Creating something is the first step to creating something great.”

  9. Great video. Thanks for posting. The whole get a paycheck first thing reminds me of Dr. Rhonda Ormots book, “Career Solutions for Creative People”. Her “paycheck” ideals she refers to as a LIFELINE CAREER, meaning something to stabilize your lifestyle until you are able to turn your “hobby” into a profession.

    John Grisham regardless if you are a fan or not, gave some great advice. Thanks for posting Rob. I may have to post this as a link on my blog.

    Thanks Again