This phrase should be familiar to you in terms of blogging, but I’m using it in a slightly different way. As a freelancer, I had to find out what wasn’t being done and find a way to do it. For example, I wanted to do book reviews. However, one writer in town did do book reviews for two of the most popular papers. So if I had just asked if I could review books, I would have been turned down. So I found a new wrinkle.
This particular book reviewer’s tastes ran to fiction, local writers, and mysteries and thrillers. So those were the books he reviewed. I found nonfiction books that authors were having local signings for and started reviewing them for a local alternative weekly. I got the books for free and got paid to read and write about them. In the words of the 80’s band Dire Straits, that was money for nothing! But the principle was sound–I found a need and filled it.
The same alternative weekly also had people who covered the bar scene, but no one that was writing about the fine arts–orchestras, little theatre, professional theatre, choral groups, etc. So I volunteered for that as well. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to cover those events–they just didn’t have anyone to do it.
The business newspaper I wrote for was slanted to the conservative direction politically, so I became one of two writers who covered more liberal topics. The other writer covered liberal politics and environmental issues, while I did articles on women’s issues, art, nonprofit issues, and occasionally business books.
I started out covering events out of town for the big newspaper I was writing for, researching them on the Web and calling for more information when it was needed. When my editor was given more responsibility and got the local news beats as well, I could cover more local material such as suburban events, which no one was doing at that time.
I also continually looked for new outlets to write for. They seemed to land in my lap–I would have a free newspaper thrown in my lawn and see that they were looking for writers. I wrote mostly for free publications for minimal pay, but that minimal pay added up when I was doing three or four articles an issue weekly or monthly.
Next time I’ll talk about taking risks with your writing–and my mixed record doing so.