Writing Outside the Box
© 2001 Sherry D. Ramsey
Quick! Grab something to write with (I mean it!) and finish this sentence: "What I really want to write is..."
Did you say, "better poetry," or "travel articles," or "4000-word short stories," or "meaningful novels about cats?" It doesn't matter what you wrote. Whatever you answered, that's your box.
Most writers start out inside a box. The box is of our own making, because the box is what we want to write, what we feel qualified to write, what we need to write. If we could make a living writing that one thing, we'd be satisfied. There's nothing wrong with that; the contents of your box can be your ultimate writing goal.
By staying inside that box all the time, however, you may be missing a lot of opportunities to gain experience, improve your writing skills, and actually make money. The things you can write about, the way you can write them, and the places you can sell them, are almost limitless. Don't ignore ideas that don't fit inside the box.
Had a great idea for a novel but realized after you began it that there wasn't enough plot? Maybe you can turn it into a short story. Started a story and realized it would work better set fifty years in the future? Maybe you can write it as science fiction. Did you keep a written account of that great vacation you had last summer? Write a travel article.
Do you garden, fish, paint, craft, run, cook, read, take photos, do carpentry, or anything else? Do you have an area or areas of expertise connected to your work? Are you a parent? You can probably write about it. Can you write greeting card copy? Create puzzles? Make up a quiz? Write a cartoon gag? Explain how to do something? You can write it. And, if you write it well, sell it.
Don't believe me? The subtitle of the 2001 Writer's Market is "8000 Editors Who Buy What You Write." That's eight thousand places to sell your writing. Some of those editors are buying the kinds of things that fit inside your writing box, but most of them are buying other things, too.
When you're just starting out, you might find it easier to concentrate more on what you're immediately comfortable writing. That's fine. But as you gain confidence and proficiency, don't forget to look around at what else you might write. There's a whole world of possibilities waiting for you to explore them.
Copyright © 2001 Sherry D. Ramsey
Sherry D. Ramsey is a fiction and nonfiction writer, editor and Internet publisher. This article is an excerpt from her new e-book, "The New Writer's Guide to Just About Everything," now available from Booklocker.com. Sherry's web magazine, The Scriptorium, provides information, advice and inspiration for writers.