In his book Getting Started as a Freelance Writer, Robert W. Bly recommends that writers choose up to four specialities to write about all the time, instead of hoping around doing all sorts of different subjects.
Bly has a point. If you know one subject really well, you can write about it all the time and spin out about a gazillion different takes from just that one subject. Besides, editors will know that you’re the one they should call when they’re running a particular piece that is your specialty.
Plus there are some things you’re already good at. There’s hobbies that you enjoy reading about or doing. If you’ve been teaching for years, you know about teaching. Graduate recently with a degree in kinesiology? You can use your experience in that topic to your advantage. Write about it. You know it.
Which is the reason why I’m not going for a bachelor’s in writing or English. I’m going for a double major in psychology and music (hoping I get into the music program anyway) with a minor in writing. I love psychology, and I do want a career in psychology. I will be gaining some degree of expertise in something I love, while taking enough writing courses along the way to help me out. I can always go for a MFA in journalism or writing, though I’m not totally convinced that there’s a need to.
Anyway, I sat down and thought about some things I do know about.
- I know psychology. In the next four years, I will be learning a lot more.
- I know eating disorders. Never had one myself, doesn’t mean I don’t know how it feels to hate one’s self. I’ve read on eating disorders, I’ve discussed it, I’ve had friends with eating disorders so I get feedback from them all the time, I’ve interviewed people, and I’ve written about it.
- I know chocolate. I love chocolate. I know how to describe good chocolate. And I know how to act like a starry-eyed woman on television with her legs in the air, blissfully spooning chocolate into her mouth. I’m going to get more information about chocolate by reading about it. This Saturday is library time! And I have plans for conducting interviews and polls and a possible article that I want to write. (BWAHAHAHAHAAAA)
- I know my own life experiences. This isn’t a specialty topic as much as a form of writing. The person essay is something that all people should have some degree of experience in. In some ways, it can help market yourself. I remember writing pages and pages of personal essays when I was applying for college. I’m sure I’ll have to do it again in another four years when I apply for graduate school. I believe a few jobs may also require personal essays. Depends, though. But you can always use a life experience in an anecdote in a feature article, or something of the sort.
While we’re talking about genres, it would be good for me to put down several of those that I could contribute to.
- Comedy/Satire. Check this blog out. I love writing this stuff, but have yet to find a place that would take it.
- Christian markets. I’ve written several devotions and meditations before. That stuff is big on life experience, and since I do know my own life experiences as well as knowing a lot of Bible stuff, it’s a good fit. Not only that, I’ve worked at a church for some time. Volunteer work, but I was very involved with a lot of projects that was going on. I still work at that church, in fact. But after I go to college that probably will change. I also know that these markets don’t really pay that well but they’re good for an additional source of income. I really enjoy writing this stuff even though the response times are ridiculous.
- Fitness/Health. I know there’s a big market for health and fitness, especially in this society. It’s all about the perfect diets, exercise plans, exercise equipment, and so on. People want to hear about the ways they can be healthy, slim, and fit. Psychology goes under mental health. Eating disorders definitely go into this category as well.
Personal essays. Of course! They’re fun to write, but don’t pay as well. Not to mention that magazine slots for the BOB personal essays are pretty competitive. Many people can write excellent personal essays. I wrote a pretty funny one (wow, I compliment myself. It’s because I don’t like to get myself discouraged.) but have yet to find a market. Naturally, I have to look first. Personal essays can also be tweaked to fit in most anywhere. It’s just the competition that one has to get by.
Here’s something goofy. I really really want to review gel pens, stationery, and cute office supplies… if only to get the free stuff. 😛 But yes, I do a little reviewing on the side. I just don’t care to do it for magazines, but more for myself. It’s not that I don’t like to do it, I just don’t want to spread myself too thin.
Find that niche where you fit in, and you’ll have an easier time when you sell your writing. At least that’s what the books all say. I haven’t experienced it for myself.
Happy writing! And while you’re at it, get me those gel pens . . .