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What Creates Passion and Passionate People, and What Defeats it In Us? Interview with Gregg Levoy

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Rob: Or - what did -

GL: Magazines and newspapers.

Rob: Okay.

GL: That's what I wanted to do; I wanted to be able to write my own stories rather than what was assigned to me. I wanted to have a more national audience than a small regional audience. And I wanted to live in San Francisco rather than Cincinnati. And San Francisco's the antidote to Cincinnati. As you might imagine, but what I did is I devoted every Thursday night to becoming a student of the life I wanted to live, and that was the freelance life. So every Thursday I went down to the public library instead of taking the bus back uptown at the end of the day and I spent three hours from six to nine when it closed, studying the freelance life; reading books about it, reading articles about it, interviewing people who were freelancers, writing stories, querying editors, exedra, exedra. So it was three hours a week for a year. Turned out to be actually a year and three quarters because interviewing the freelance writers, what they all said to me was you better have two years worth of savings in the bank, which was a bummer because I didn't have that kind of money in the bank and it made me extend my deadline another almost year. And you know, two years is a long time to be doing something when you'd rather be doing something else, but it's not twenty, you know, and by the time I leapt into the freelance life, I leapt into work, I did not leap into an abyss.

Rob: So, okay, so three hours a week -

GL: For a year and three quarters.

Rob: - for a year and three quarters, what did you do? What was involved? What was that time involved in? You were studying how to do it, learning how to figure it out -

GL: Right.

Rob: So talk more about the process.

GL: Developing relationships with editors was a big part of it. I was querying them on story ideas, I was dealing with rejection, I was reworking the queries, sending them out, doing research and interviewing, putting story together, writing, rewriting, and essentially, developing ongoing relationships with a couple of editors so that when I left employment I would have relationships up and running. So that was a big part of it, but it was also just studying the life I wanted to live. This I had identified as my new great passion, was to be self-employed as a writer and to write certain kinds of stories, they tended to be medical and health related partly because I was fascinated by the subjects; partly because there was a lot of novelty in those fields and I knew that one thing editors love, if it's not lunch it's stories about something new. So I knew I could make a living at it if I focused on that niche if you will, is new breakthroughs in certain fields.

Rob: And it ends up you wrote for a magazine that I also wrote for, Omni magazine.

GL: No kidding.

Rob: Yeah I spent a couple years writing articles for them.

GL: Is that right?

Rob: As a freelancer.

GL: Right, is that right?

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