Whenever people ask how to make a living as a writer, veterans in the field tend to offer this tip: specialize. You become known for a topic, which means that you have ready access to all publications covering that topic, and you also know who are the right sources and what’s the most current research. That means that each piece takes less time to write. Especially if you want to write books, making the case that you know a field, and have an audience, vastly helps with getting a contract.
I suppose I have followed this advice to a degree with my books. I enjoy writing about time management and productivity, and I also like the gateway these topics provide to broader issues, like careers, talent development, leadership, economics, and so forth. So I’ve written about them a lot.
However, given today’s to-do list, I realize that I just haven’t specialized that much. On the docket:
- Edit my short book, for the Philanthropy Roundtable, on teacher quality
- Interview the head of an audio book publishing company for a USA Today column
- Interview Hank Shaw, of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook on hunting and eating wild game as part of a sustainable, locavore-type diet (that link goes to his “On Killing” essay — worth a read)
- Interview Dan Clements, author of Escape 101, for a Fast Company piece on sabbaticals
- Interview the head of a digital media agency on how outside-work passions make you more productive
- Interview a few people from a major foundation focused on education on their principal training investments
- Answer a few queries on time management speeches
- Set up an interview with someone for Mosaic
- Blog on my scattered professional interests
The truth is, I really like learning about new things. The time that adds to a project isn’t a downside. It’s fun. Writing about school lunches recently, I enjoyed learning that the St. Paul MN school district tries to introduce ethnic dishes from groups that live in the area; Hmong Beef Fried Rice worked, and Karen Coconut Chicken did not. Children do not like turmeric. I suppose I could have imagined that, but now I’ve had it confirmed. I enjoyed learning today that audio books used to be mostly abridged because it’s unwieldy to sell a 30-CD package (CDs can hold about 74 minutes of sound). But with digital downloads, all that’s behind us. You can make an audio book any length you want!
Other facts: The Specklebelly goose is nicknamed “the ribeye in the sky” because unlike most geese, it puts on fat. If you’re going to go for a Christmas goose, try that breed.
I might earn more or be able to work fewer hours if I specialized more. I might be able to write better, deeper pieces, too. But I also think that my longevity in this business depends on me being interested enough in what I write to want to write it. If I had to do the same thing every day, I’d go nuts.
How different is your work on a day-to-day basis?