Writers have a lot of freedom, in terms of choosing what kinds of writing they want to do. Which is great. Until you realize you want to do everything, or know there’s a specific type of writing you DO NOT want to do. Then you’re stuck.
There’s so many options — too many options, maybe. And you want to know which one you’re best at, which one you’ll enjoy the most, and — let’s be honest — the one that will help you make money without making you miserable. Here’s how to experiment with different styles, formats, and genres until you know which one — or ones — you want to focus on moving forward.
Blog about everything
Blogging experts will tell you that your blog must focus on one niche and one writing style or genre to keep it uniform. This doesn’t always apply, though. There’s no rule that says a blog has to be a perfect, public masterpiece that’s useful enough to make a profit. You can use a blog as an experimental showcase of different kinds of writing, art, etc. — yes, you’re allowed! Post a poem, a news brief, a how-to article, a review, a short story — anything you want. You have the freedom to do that. You have the luxury of practicing however, wherever, and however often you want.
When it comes time to put together your online portfolio, depending on the type of writing you want to show prospective employers, partners, or clients, you can either break it into sections by type or only add your best work from a specific style or genre.
“Freelance writer” is one of the most generic job titles, but that says a lot about what you can accomplish as a freelancer. You can pretty much write about anything, in any format. Press releases, newsletters, articles, ebooks — I once had someone ask me if I would write Minecraft fanfiction (I may have said yes). In my time as a freelancer, I’ve done just about everything — not just because of the money, but because it’s worthwhile, and often fun, to explore different things. And unlike blogging, as long as you’re skilled enough to provide what a client wants, you can get paid to experiment. How cool is that?
Before you dive into the wonderful world of freelance writing, make sure you check out the unwritten rules. Know what you’re getting into before you get into it. Going in prepared, even if you’re not sure what you want your freelancing focus to be, will make you much more successful much more quickly. It’s still a rough ride, but it’s going to make you a better writer in more ways than one.
Read outside your comfort zone
One of the best ways to train and motivate yourself to write is to read. I make as much time for reading every week as I do for writing. However, this isn’t a very useful practice if you stick to only one type of book, especially when you’re trying to explore different kinds of writing. Reading only fiction, when you aren’t sure if you want to stick to writing fiction, isn’t going to help you branch out.
Read fiction, nonfiction, self-help, poetry — every genre you can. It opens you up to new possibilities, especially if you haven’t explored many before. I never really read non-fiction until college, and it was then that I started writing articles and migrating away from my fiction-only writing lifestyle. Plus, it’s a great motivator — you read something, fall in love with it, and think, “Wow. I want to write something that people will like as much as I like this.” And sometimes, you even go off and do it.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.