How to Surround Yourself with Brilliance

Photo by Joshua Rothhaas

Photo by Joshua Rothhaas

When I told my dad, a freelance writer for more than 30 years, that I was going to make a go at freelancing in 2009, he joked that I might try “something more remunerative, like looking for dropped change on the sidewalk.” He was exaggerating of course, but he was right that freelancing is not the easiest way to make money. It is, however, an amazing school.

I’ve learned so much from generating ideas, pitching, interviewing, researching, crafting articles, working with editors, and polishing pieces. If I had to pluck out one lesson to share from my freelancing adventures, it would be this: ask more questions.

It sounds simple, but learning how to interview people changed the way I approach everything from my friendships to my parenting to my writing. People love to share their stories. All you have to do is be curious, ask questions, and listen. It’s a sure way to improve any relationship, project, or boring activity. And you’ll likely find out you’re surrounded by fascinating geniuses.

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About Abby Quillen

Abby Quillen writes fiction and magazine articles. Her articles and essays have appeared in YES! Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Colorado Central Magazine, and on Common Dreams, Nation of Change, Reader Supported News, The Daily Good, Truthout, and You can find more of her writing at


  1. DICK STACY says:

    I reside in a senior center in Florida and have found that asking other residents about themselves is the best way to make friends, and maybe the only way with those who have become more reticent with age.

  2. I have noticed this about you! You seem to have the ability to talk to anyone. It does make for more interesting conversations, and you can learn so much. I want to get better at it.

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