To be a freelance writer, you have to possess the skills of a juggler, the flexibility of a contortionist, and have the thick skin of a rhinoceros. Oh, it’s a circus, make no mistake.
The definition of a writer, according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
Writer: (noun) One that writes.
That’s it. That’s all it says. It doesn’t mention the hours of work, the gallons of blood, the oceans of tears and sweat. One that writes. It doesn’t mention the fact you have to market yourself, that you have to have a working knowledge of the internet, how to run a blog, how to drive traffic or how to optimize your presence on the web. These all important skills we need as writers in order to be successful writers. (By “successful” I mean making a living. Even Stephen King has had to do book signings and promotional work.)
Okay. At least that is established – we write. Does it matter what we write? Fiction: Flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels, screenplays, theatrical work? Non-fiction: Articles, web copy, ad copy, blogs, memoirs, books, biographies?
To embrace a label is to be not only defined by the label, but limited to it. If you are a competent writer, schooled in structure, grammar, and punctuation, does it matter what kind of material to which you apply yourself? In my opinion – no.
If you can write an article, you can write a novel. If you can write a screenplay, you can write copy. If you can write at all, you can write anything. You might be stronger in some areas than another, but don’t let a label set your definition of what you do. Editors and employers need a label in order to market your work; you may need them in order to market yourself. That’s fine, but don’t let a label or market definition interfere with the basic precept – you are a writer.
Honing your skills in different formats can only enrich the process as a whole. Writing fiction can teach you a lot about pace, structure and creativity. Writing flash fiction can teach you the value of the well-placed word and conciseness. Writing articles can teach you discipline, more structure and Mad Research Skillz.
Don’t be afraid to branch out into areas in which you haven’t ventured, because you’ve thought of yourself as only one kind of writer. You might not be successful in every endeavor you undertake, but often we learn more from our failures than we do our successes.
Think outside the box and take a chance. It’s fun, it’s a learning experience, and you never know what you will uncover once you take the label off. So, strip off the label and get naked – and write!