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Expanding Your Point of View
by Shannon Caster
At least once a week I read or hear a standard piece of writer’s
advice—write-what-you-know. This adage has served many writers
well, helping them become specialists in a particular field of writing.
In fact, this piece of advice served me well when I began writing,
until I realized I had inadvertently narrowed my focus too much.
Sure I was an expert at writing short pieces for children’s
magazines, but there were other markets out there waiting for my
expertise if I just expanded my point of view.
At one point in my life, my day job was teaching elementary school.
I taught kindergarten, first, second (sometimes all in one grade),
and fifth grade. What does that mean for my freelance potential?
I can tap into educational markets, teacher magazines, parent magazines
looking for educational topics, and anything related to education
students. Furthermore, I list my teaching credentials on cover letters
to support that I’m writing-what-I-know. So what’s your
day job? Do you work for a doctor’s office? Then you have
professional experience in this area, even if you aren’t an
MD or PhD. You might have great ideas about surviving the flu season
in the office environment, and you could even grab your boss for
a quote. Work in retail? You have the perfect angle for an article
on “The Insider’s Scoop on When a Sale is Really a Sale.”
Don’t discount your job or past jobs in providing you with
a wealth of ideas and credibility to write on the subject.
Next, think about your home life. I have two children, three dogs,
a cat, and a husband. For me this translates into possible freelancing
in the areas of parenting, pets, and dating/marriage. Sure, I’m
not dating now, but I dated at one point in my life. I can still
remember “Surviving the First Date with Humor” or “Top
Five Outdoor Dates for Spring.” Life makes you an expert in
many ways. Not a day goes by that my kids don’t give me something
to write about. Today I could have written articles on “The
Modern-Day Tooth Fairy,” or “When Your Child’s
Ready to Walk the Dog,” and “Are Picky Eaters Born or
Raised?” Can you guess what my morning looked like? There’s
a large market out there waiting for your personal essays, filler
articles, and even lead articles if you are ready to give it a try.
By now you’re probably seeing a pattern emerge. Your life
experiences have provided you with multiple facets in which you
can tap into for freelance opportunities. Now it’s time to
get out your pencil and paper, or open a new document on your computer,
and start brainstorming. First, make two columns: “I Know
About” and “Potential Markets.” Use the prompts
below to think about yourself and fill in the “I Know About”
column. Then go back and write out potential markets related to
- What jobs have you held? Target freelance markets in these
areas. Even stay-at-home parents can find newspapers, magazines,
and website needing articles on stay-at-home-mom/dad topics.
- College degree? Technical school? Internship? What areas did
you study that you can now write about?
- Family relations (i.e. parent, spouse, grandparent, sister,
twin…)? You can write about your experiences in these roles.
- Family roles (i.e. cook, Ms. Fix-it, carpooler, soccer dad,
storyteller, budget wise shopper…)? What is it that you
always seem to be doing for your family?
- Hobbies? There’s a magazine for almost any hobby. A great
place to search hobby markets is right here in the Guidelines
- Do you have pets? Dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, saltwater
aquarium? There are markets galore in the pet world.
- Do you volunteer (i.e. church, school, library, walking neighbor’s
dog)? What ways to you make a difference?
- What magazines do you read regularly? Hint: If you’re
always reading Reader’s Digest, why not submit a funny story
of your own?
- What big events have happened in your life lately? New baby,
marriage, buying a new home, surviving a winter blizzard, divorce,
son going away to college—find a new angle to common events
and sell it.
- Where have you gone on vacation? What things have you seen
in your hometown? You can write a travel piece or article on sightseeing
destinations in your own town to sell to magazines outside your
area. You can give readers the “insider” perspective
on your hometown.
Finally, if your list of potential markets isn’t overflowing
with ideas that will take you days to dig through writer’s
guidelines, here’s one last tip. Ask your family what you
are passionate about—you know those things you are always
commenting on, complaining about, or rambling off some new fact
you read about. Sometimes it takes others to expand your point of
© Copyright 2008, Shannon Caster
Shannon Caster resides in Portland, Oregon where she can be found
reading at the park, watching her kids at sporting events, walking
her dogs, or writing on her laptop. Shannon frequently writes for
children, parents, educators, writers, and any other audience willing
to listen. Shannon welcomes visitors to her website at www.shannoncaster.com.
Other articles by Shannon Caster :
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