Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different outcome each time. (probably not Albert Einstein)
Take the quiz:
- Do you write for the same publications over and over again, and complain about the low pay and the boredom?
- Do you feel isolated as a writer, having no one to bounce ideas back and forth with and give you feedback?
- Do you always write about the same subjects, for the same audience?
- Do you feel as if there are no well-paying and enjoyable jobs for a freelance writer – or for you specifically?
If you answered Yes to any of these questions, you may be guilty of Writer’s Insanity.
While I was searching for a cure for this unsightly problem, I came across a really nice post from Linda Formichelli’s website which, uncannily, is called Linda Formichelli.com. She’s a freelance writing success coach, and used to run a great blog called The Renegade Writer.
Linda makes some really good points about freelance writing – and writing in general – and I think there is some very valuable information in her post for you. It might just be the perfect medicine for your writing ailments. As the owner of a blog and a business, I got a lot out of it too.
The idea that a well-off person couldn’t possibly relate to the concerns of “regular folk” is ridiculous. Any reasonably intelligent person can look around, read the news, and talk to people from all walks of life to gain an understanding of their lives. We writers should know that more than anyone!
I’ve written about both writing what you know and using research to write what you don’t know, and I firmly believe authors can do both. I also highly recommend starting the habit of Method Writing, in which you write for 10–20 minutes a day about a small piece of your life’s tapestry: Describe the episode, summoning up all the emotions surrounding it. Soon you will have a whole arsenal of emotions that you can use when drawing your characters, narrating a scene, building tension, and even writing nonfiction.
Niche it down
Don’t let it bother you when a book, article, or blog post doesn’t relate precisely to your life…and at the same time, don’t feel bad if your writing isn’t 100% all-inclusive. It’s okay to write something strictly for a particular audience that you relate to. If someone doesn’t like it, they don’t have to read it.
Don’t write with fear:
- Fear that no one will read your work
- Fear that people will read your work and criticize it
- Fear that you’ll never get another job/write another word
Concentrate on this piece at this time. Say what you mean. Focus.
Niching down helps you zero in on the subject, the angle, the audience, and the point of view. Your writing will be crisper because you won’t betray ambivalence or juggle too many disparate threads in your piece.
Remember to have an image of Ideal Reader in your mind as you write; in other words, write for one person only. It’s counterintuitive, but this is the way to create a piece that will be well-received by a wider group.
Having focus yields two, somewhat opposing, positive outcomes: First, you will cull an audience that is specifically and deeply interested in your subject and manner of delivery. People in that niche will flock to it.
Second, even those who aren’t necessarily in your demographic will read your stuff if they think that there is something valuable to get out of it – even if it’s not a perfect fit. As Linda says, smart readers will “connect the dots, [concluding:] ‘This tip won’t work for me as is, but how can I apply something like it to my life?’ or ‘This writer is nothing like me, but what can I take away from this book?’”
There will still be people who will not like or want to read your piece, and this can be devastating; I still shake every time I get a comment on this blog (but don’t tell anyone). Reframe the issue: think of it as pruning away the selvage and refining your market.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
The next time you find yourself irritated that a book or article isn’t precisely relevant to your situation…consider how an inability to relate to people in different demographics may be affecting your career as a freelance writer. Not only does it limit what audience you’re able to write for and what you’re able to write about, but it also hinders your earning potential.
I remember my first editing mentor telling me that a good editor could edit even a chemistry textbook, as his or her job is to make it readable and understandable. This invaluable piece of advice applies to writers as well.
Writers: there are so many opportunities to write! So what if you’re Mormon and you want to pitch an article on Buddhism? Or how about writing a blog post on planting spring flowers even though you have a black thumb? Are you happily married to a member of the opposite sex but want to cover the Pride Parade in your city?
That’s what research is for – and that is what moxie, a creative mind, and initiative are for.
Don’t sell yourself short
[Having] trouble relating to people more well-off than we are may be a contributing factor to the low pay so many writers complain about….The people with money are the ones who can afford to hire you at a premium rate. They’re…looking to hire the best and pay them what they’re worth….writers who market to big businesses earn more….And writers who target their ghostwriting services to CEOs and wealthy people with stories to tell earn more.
Have you considered writing for trade magazines? Or offered your services to a large corporation or online business? Did you know there are outstanding jobs that pay well on Upwork? (If you want to make a lot of money on Upwork, go to this website.)
Stretch your writing wings and get out of your comfort zone. Do a bit of research on a potential client and pitch them. (Here’s an outstanding article on delivering the perfect proposal.)
Explore a new writing world with Google, and not only for jobs. How about joining a writers’ Facebook group, or one on Google Plus? LinkedIn is full of writers’ groups as well. All of these platforms have groups in every sort of writing niche you can imagine.
Pro tip: Make sure you give to these groups by posting valuable information and comments before you think about how they can help you.
For the next two weeks I challenge you to do something different with your writing. Pick one of the following:
- Learn about a subject that’s completely foreign to you – maybe one in which you think you have no interest. Find a creative angle and write up an article about it. Then find a publication or company to pitch it to.
- Join an online writers’ group and commit to going on it 10 minutes a day.
- Research a publication or corporation and think of 3 different articles you could write for them – and then go ahead and pitch them!
Please let me know in the Comments what you did, and how it felt to leave your comfort zone.
And remember: The only thing blocking you from success is you.
So get out of your own way and make it happen.
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