3 Writing Tips We Can Learn from Beyoncé

by Monica M. Clark | 22 comments

I'm going to be straight with you—I am a Beyoncé fan. In 2003, I thought I was her. I've been to four or five of her concerts. I tried to be cool and not watch Lemonade live, only to discover HBO pulled it a week later. So I bought it. I BOUGHT a music video.

And today, I'm leveraging my love for Beyoncé to bring you three writing tips that will help you channel her greatness.

3 Writing Tips from Beyoncé

Regardless of your opinion about Beyoncé or her music, we can all agree she's a success. Therefore, there must be some writing tips we can learn from her.

Here are three tips I believe writers can learn from Beyoncé:

1. Success Requires a Strong Work Ethic

I’ll never forget watching an episode of “Making the Video” (or something) where Beyoncé was filming her “Baby Boy” video.

The choreography required a backward somersault that she just could not land in rehearsal. It was fine, her people told her. Go home, they said, as she would have time to get it right during the shoot.

She did not go home.

Instead, we watched Beyoncé do that somersault over and over and over again until it was second nature. When it came time to shoot the video, she nailed it on the first try.

Beyoncé is able to make her singing, dancing, and running the world look easy because she has a strong work ethic. She has faith in her abilities, and knows that anything is possible with enough time and dedication.

It’s easy to find reasons to quit working on your novel, essay, or other project, but if you want to be a Beyoncé-level writer, these excuses simply won’t do. Like your favorite “Formation” artist, you must stay committed to your craft and keep going until you get it right.

2. Writers Should be Inspired by the Greats, Not Intimidated by Them

I’ve read multiple interviews where Beyoncé speaks wistfully about the days when watching music videos was an “event.” There was a time when the whole world would sit in front of their TVs at 8pm to view a Michael Jackson video on network television.

Most artists would have simply put MJ in a separate category: “He’s on another level and therefore I’m not going to even try to have that kind of impact.”

Beyoncé didn't let Michael Jackson's success intimidate her. Instead, it inspired her. Just a few weeks ago, she created her own primetime event with “Lemonade” on HBO. HBO made its channel available to everyone for that week, and if you (like me) hadn’t spent your Saturday night watching, you quickly learned you missed something.

There can only be one Maya Angelou, J.K. Rowling, or Cheryl Strayed, but don’t let their greatness hinder you from exploring your own. Be inspired by the greats, and create something only you could.

3. Express Yourself Through Your Art

Why else do we write, right?

Beyoncé is interesting in this regard. She is pretty private and controlled, refusing to talk about the difficult things we all think we deserve to know. She doesn’t do interviews anymore. In fact, Beyoncé barely even speaks to anyone outside of her inner circle.

But when it comes to her art, it’s a whole other story. Through her music, she shows the pain of her miscarriage. Watching her video, we feel the anger she felt after being betrayed by her husband. She even told us something about her stance on feminism when she did an extremely sexy and racy dance during an awards show (where her daughter was in the audience) with the text of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s “We should all be feminists” flashing in the background.

I'll admit Beyoncé is a little extreme in her practice of expressing herself through her art and only her art, but I respect it. Music is what she is good at, music is something she knows she can get right, and so that’s what she does.

The writing tip here is that if you feel most comfortable writing, then write. Even if you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of the NYT, write that love letter anyway. If you suck at oral presentations, but are great are writing memos, then hey—ask to present your work in writing. Lean into writing, because it’s what you do.

Learn from the Stars You Admire

Obviously, I love Beyoncé. And after years of listening to her music, reading her interviews, and watching her documentaries, I've learned a lot about the habits and characteristics that have helped her become such a huge success.

Beyoncé may not be your favorite artist. (Maybe don't tell me that, though.) But I'm sure you know of other stars you love. As you follow their work and learn about their process, you'll glean wisdom and writing tips that you can use to be successful in your own work.

What other writing tips can we learn from Beyoncé or other pop stars? How can you channel their greatness into your writing? Let me know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Think of an artist you admire. Then take fifteen minutes to write about them when they're in the midst of their creative process. Maybe you'll imagine J.K. Rowling scribbling away furiously, or Beyoncé about to try her fiftieth backwards somersault.

When you're done, post your practice in the comments. And if you share, be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!

 

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Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

22 Comments

  1. Desiree Smith

    I’m not sure if I want to share but I will say this. I have been a BIG Mariah Carey fan since I was 13, and I also can remember going to the theater to see This Is It, and telling myself I want to be Michael Jackson but a writer. I loved how he pushed boundaries, his work ethic, and as for Mariah how she inspired me, I remember there was a Nanowrimo one year I dropped out in the middle because I found out I was pregnant, and I decided I needed to take it easy. I think a year later I found myself pregnant again, and this was around the time Mariah was pregnant with her twins. She said it was the most the most stressful time of her life she even was on bedrest at some point, and yet she found the time to do a Christmas album, a couple of videos, holiday specials, and I thought, if she can do this surely I can write a novel. I ended up writing a 6 book series. I was uncomfortable, emotional, going thorugh so much including the pregnancy but I channeled it into, sometimes used to as an escape.

    And James Patterson, I remember loving how he did commercials for his own book. Just him sitting on the stool holding his book, “If you don’t buy this book, I will kill Alex Cross!” Talk about promotion! LOL!!

    But I do plan on channeling some of my heroes in my writing today a lot more than usual. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Monica

      Mariah Carey is my favorite artist of all time. Legend status!! I love her, I mean what other living artist has created a Christmas classic? Amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    • Gary G Little

      Oh lemme see … Bing Crosby, several intact. Jimmie Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That one is about as classic as you can get. Gene Autry’s “Rudolf …’ Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”

      Ok, I’ll shut and go back to sleep, but you did ask.

  2. Beth Schmelzer

    Thanks for your encouragement, Monica! I needed that lift today. The best on your own publishing. I look forward to reading your book from Annapolis, MD!

    Reply
  3. William Power

    I’m not a Beyoncé fan, but the allegorical realities you point out for anyone who’s trying to make it are a real boost. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Ruth

    Great post! My favorite singer is John Denver, and his videos from years past are as entertaining and uplifting as if I was in the audience today. He surrounds himself with excellent musicians (writers: good grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure), his performance is enhanced by looking directly at his audience (writers: simple, direct prose) and delivers his message with sincerity and passion (writers: write from your heart). My hope is to inspire readers the way he inspired his audience.

    Reply
  5. Susan W A

    Monica, this is an awesome post. You got me right from the start with your enthusiasm, and I love the wisdom you gleaned from your observations. I’d say your writing tips are full-blown “Life” tips. Your suggestions gave me a lot of energy, and motivation to “go beyond”. (Loved your explicit suggestion, “Maybe don’t tell me that though” .. good idea to be up front so no feelings get hurt. : )
    I’ll think about your practice topic and will be back. (End of the semester grading is going on, so you may have to be patient.)
    Thanks for sharing your ideas in a very entertaining and inspiring way.

    Reply
    • Susan W A

      Oh…duh!!! I’m motivated to “go beyond” but I can’t do a 15 minute post because I have papers to grade?! hahaha!!! Ok, here goes. I’m going to work on my practice right now and I’ll be back shortly to post it.

    • Susan W A

      Well, MY writing practice wasn’t too inspired, but here are some things that inspire me about Ray Bradbury.

      “The things that you do should be the things that you love, and the things that you love should be the things that you do.” – Ray Bradbury

      Inspiration: POSITIVE attitude!
      Inspiration: CREATIVE language … metaphors galore (title of a poem-to be)
      Inspiration: IMAGINATION as reality
      Inspiration: He gets to know his characters so they can tell him what to write
      Inspiration: Determination
      Inspiration: Thirst for knowledge; widely read
      Inspiration: Incorporating his passions in life into his writing
      Inspiration: Enthusiasm as a way of being

      Ray Bradbury – LOVELY short film of him. At this link, go towards the bottom of the page, with the heading, “Film” and select the short version 7 min.. (Click again if it doesn’t work the first time.) http://www.neabigread.org/books/fahrenheit451/media/

      Here’s my paltry writing practice. I’m just posting it for the heck of it….actually, to acknowledge that writing practice is writing practice. Might as well get the (really) bad stuff out of the way so there’s room when it’s time for the good stuff to shine. (Seriously? Push the “post” button?)Aaackkk!

      tk tktktk tk tktktk tktk tktk tktktk tktktk tktktktktk ahhh … the aroma of bound white paper with a sauce of black ink feeds my imagination. Books as my cushion, books as my companion, books to elevate my feet and my mind, books as my walls tktktk tk tktktktk tktk tk tktk Welcome! … Atticus! Mr. Marlow! Jane! Scarlett! Come join me for tea. Soon Montag and Clarisse will be here. Yes, it’s wonderful to see you. I’ve just arrived back from my vacation home on Mars. Marvelous!

  6. Jason

    This is a great post! I have a admire singer. He is one of the best singer in asian. But his song is slowly not getting top of the asian song list. This is not the point. Everyone think he is a genius in music. This is not the case. He put more hours into his work than his crew. Every time he did not get an award for his song recognition. He takes it seriously and try to figure it out what happen. He is my favorite singer of all time! Work harder than everyone else then success will come to you!

    Reply
  7. LaCresha Lawson

    This was an interesting article. Beyonce would not be someone I admire. It would be the ones that came before her. I believe I would have said,”Tina Turner.” Roberta Flack. She played the piano, “Beaurifully.” I don’t believe Beyonce writes her own music. And, being rich, you can hire people to do anything and then pay them to put their name on the “project.” She doesn’t even have a high school diploma or equivalent. It is just my opinion. Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Ingo Hampe

    David Bowie is my hero. During the Ziggy Stardust Tour he announced on stage “this is the last show I will ever do”. It wasn’t. It was just a beginning of a tremendous career. I think that is totally ok to admit, that you can’t go on the way you did before. It happens to everybody at one point in their live. But then you have to adapt to pull yourself out of the swamp.
    The other reason why I admire David Bowie is that he never was affraid of what the others may think of him. He always did what he wanted. Never work for anybody else but yourself. So I guess that are two more tippslessons we can learn from the great artist.

    Reply
    • Charlene Gibb

      We lost an amazing musician this year when David Bowie died.

  9. Charlene Gibb

    I find inspiration in Cher. Her sheer determination to continue on with her career through all the ridicule and disrespect in her early years (and continues today to some extent.)
    She and Sonny hit it big in the sixties and seventies and a Cher became a bit of a joke. The outfits she wore to awards shows were always on “worst dressed” lists and left people wondering what she was thinking. Even though her designer, Bob Mackie, is one of the best in the business. Through Sonny dying, her daughter’s “coming out” and transformation and all the critisizm, she pushed herself forward and kept giving us good music and good shows (I have seen her in concert twice). At 69, she is still a top performer.
    Thank you for this article. Whenever I feel I am unworthy of the writing profession, I will now think of Cher and all her struggles.

    Reply
  10. Bobbi Hendersdon

    Great post! I am not really a fan but I have learned a lot about the real ” Beyoncé” from this post. . Beyonce is beautiful and I enjoy some of her music. But I am most impressed with he dedication to her brand.

    Reply
  11. Magsmaud

    My approach to my own writing is total denial. When I am working I absolutely love what I am writing- failure is not in my vocabulary. I write with enthusiasm and at speed. I shut my file with a satisfied sigh ( I write long hand for first draft ) and go to do something else.
    When I return to my masterpiece and read it with increasing dismay. Half of it is, quite frankly, pants! I salvage the better ideas and off I go again in awe of my own great ideas. Again I leave it, make a phone call or even throw together a Victoria Sandwich. I return to my work… you can guess the rest.
    I am not a fan of Beyonce. I am quite underwhelmed about her spending time perfecting a move required for a video. I am sorry but she can spend all the time she wants doing anything she wants because everyone else is doing everything else for her.
    My admiration is directed to a person who was quite simply a one woman genius with a very down to earth life style. I am, of course, referring to Victoria Wood who died last week.Her work ethic was tireless, the result of which will be an enduring monument to her genius.
    You must forgive me for finishing this post now. I have to start another piece of spectacular brilliance and then…

    Reply
  12. molly_dog

    This is why, of all the newsletters I receive daily on the topic of writing, I almost always read ‘The Write Practice’ immediately!

    I’m still struggling every day to get *something* written. Serious medical conditions that sometimes prevent my even getting out of bed; being the caregiver for my paraplegic mother-in-law so my wife can work two jobs; you get the idea.

    While my particular circumstances are a big part of my motivation to keep writing, posts like this one give me the extra “oomph” to ensure I follow through.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Susan W A

      Remarkable! Love the tone of your post.

  13. Jhean Moico

    This is nice. An advice at the same time support when it comes to going forward no matter the challenges in terms of writing.

    Reply
  14. Stella

    I’m a big fan of Claire Blackwelder. She’s an actress on the latest season of Power Rangers, which I watched since young and still enjoy watching. The character she plays is my favourite character on the show. But more importantly, I admire her as a person too.

    I love how she takes such a joyful and positive attitude towards life. In interviews she’s stated how much she enjoys getting to play a positive role model for children, and described her time on set in one word as “fun”. But she’s also talked about some of the challenges of the show before. Like waking up before 5am every day for hair and makeup and still having to learn lines after an exhausting day, or living abroad for nine months when filming was ongoing. So it’s not that her job is amazing. Rather, she chooses to focus on the positive. Watching her interviews usually leaves me smiling and feeling inspired for my own life.

    Next, I love how seriously she takes her work – and how not-seriously she takes herself. It’s rare that someone is both passionate about what they do, yet willing to laugh at themselves. She plays a stern, straight-laced character who’s prone to social blunders, such as dressing up as a very elaborate cupid for Halloween. When that episode aired, on Facebook she poked fun at how her character mixed up her holidays again (EXACTLY what her character would do) – and wished her fans a happy Hallentine’s Dayoween!

    Lastly, I appreciate how humble she is. When a show is good, the actors tend to get all the credit. But she remembers the people who helped her get where she is. Like thanking the post-production team for the incredible special effects, or the head writer for taking care of the cast when they were filming in New Zealand. And she never takes her success for granted: her reaction to the first episode airing and seeing herself on TV was hoping “that it won’t be my last time, but also that I never get used to it”.

    Best part is, Claire is younger than I am! How’s that NOT inspirational? I have zero excuses if she can do something and I can’t.

    Reply
  15. TonyaCDean

    I really appreciate how we idolized music artists and being inspired how we write thought them. You are a genius Monica. Thank you for sharing to us.

    Reply
  16. Melissa Roscoe

    “I’ve read multiple interviews where Beyoncé speaks wistfully about the days when watching music videos was an “event.” There was a time when the whole world would sit in front of their TVs at 8pm to view a Michael Jackson video on network television.” This made me so nostalgic.
    Delightful post! I love writing, and I love Beyoncé.
    Thanks!

    Reply

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