The only way to grow as a writer is by leaving your comfort zone for the unknown gig.
Writers are told to write what they know. That’s probably good advice when you’re starting out. Writing should be easier if you know the subject well, right? (Sometimes it is and other times it isn’t.) At least you have a starting point, a subject or genre, you believe you know. Go ahead write what you know if you wish. You could even become an expert in your fields. I prefer to mix it up.
Freelancing (as a writer) usually means you take any job that comes your way (at least before the power goes off and you can no longer use your laptop). It’s not like we’re all rich like Veronica (Divergent) Green ($17 million at least! Hey, we can live in hope). Let’s face it, the job is glamorised. Endless book launches, literary awards nights, glamourous photo shoots, movie deals and hobnobbing with famous people. If that’s the case I’d have no time to write anyway.
People (who are not writers) believe we flow with ideas, have endless writing work in our inbox, have plenty of time to take long walks in the sunshine, write whole novels at the local café (JK Rowling is a freak!) and pound out book after book to an applauding readership who avidly buy everything you’ve ever written (in reality only your mum does that) and of course we are rich enough to buy a mansion and yacht (I’d be happy to fork out for a new car).
Serious working writers (those who get paid to write) need to leave their comfort zone (and that includes standing up, off your chair to stretch your neck every fifteen minutes) occasionally. If you write what you think you’re good at, remaining in a writing rut, you’ll never discover what else you can do. As Jack Canfield says, “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”
Years ago, I was looking for new writing markets. Numerous women writers had their stiletto in the door of women’s issues (something I thought I was good at). Cross that off the list. I adore pets (but so do 25 million other people – true RSPA statistic) therefore, though there was a market, many writers already had their paw in that gate. I’m into fitness, but so are that many fit young people (with bodies I didn’t even remotely look like in my youth, let alone now). You can see where I’m heading with this. So many markets are extremely competitive. Look outside your comfort zone.
Then I found a gap in specialist magazines. I read somewhere that Club Life magazine welcomed freelancers. I approached the editor with a pitch for a story about customer service (the idea came from working in hospitality). I was nervous about my pitch and far out of my writing comfort zone. To my delight the editor accepted my proposal, told me the pay and published a two-page article (fist pumps!).
Lately I’ve taken on all genres. I’ve gone from non-fiction (numerous subjects) to romance and now science fiction. Who’d have thought! When I was first asked if I could write sci-fi/fantasy, I said yes immediately. After hanging up the phone I was equally delighted and horrified. A new writing job (yay!) a genre I like to read but have never written (bite my nails). But I did it. I took the job and loved writing another genre. There just might be a thriller on the horizon. I also promised my niece and granddaughter I would write a children’s book. Now I can’t even pick which writing style I enjoy more. Each have their challenges but I’m learning every day.
By stepping out of my comfort zone; my writing, editing, planning and mindset have all improved. Try writing something you know nothing about. See how good it feels when you’ve accomplished that. Happy writing.