“The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.”
L. Thomas Holdcroft
There is an ongoing debate between writers about whether or not to specialize. Some say that, by specializing in one particular topic, industry or genre, you deepen your knowledge and expand your source list. Others say that, especially since the recession, specializing puts you at financial risk. If the market dries up or a specific subject loses its audience appeal, you can find yourself with all your eggs in one basket that has developed a huge crack.
Professionally, I’m straddling both camps. While I do less magazine writing (having lost confidence in most publications to “play fair” in terms of acceptance and payments), I still write some articles and, even more rarely do some pitching. Most of my income these days is from corporate clients, simply because the money is better and I set the terms.
But when it comes to topic areas, I have, by necessity, been pushed out of whatever pigeon hole I placed myself into to write on subjects such as data warehouse, transportation management software and insurance options, versus the health and wellness and interior design categories I was more familiar with. I have also explored new types of writing projects and taken on assignments that required me to expand my knowledge base in order to turn in work that met my clients’ expectations.
In short (and in keeping with the theme of the month) I have had to learn something new.
Now, I’d love to say that every venture into the unknown has been successful, but the truth is, there are some assignments that resulted in me learning that I never wanted to cover those topics or do those kinds of projects again. But that is learning, too, albeit of a different type.
My questions for you today are:
- Are you a specialist or generalist when it comes to your writing and why have you made that choice? and
- What new thing have you learned recently — what new abilities have you developed or topic areas you have explored?