Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear,
And I need a job,
So I want to be a paperback writer,
— The Beatles, Paperback Writer
So, I’m a writer. Heck, I guess I’m now a “professional writer” – people do more than just pay me for my self-published books, I get paid to research and write articles (and even do interviews), and I derive enough of my income from writing to pay my the majority of bills at the moment. And eventually, there’s more books on the way. Seriously, even if I have to crowd fund it, there’s going to be two books come out for The Kansas Authors’ Pavilion at the Great Plains Renaissance Festival in late September: The Horror Game II, and Muse. And possibly a revised edition of The Plastic Army Game, since I’m finally out of copies.
There’s a huge difference between game & fiction writing and what I do now, which is medical and plumbing (though, I haven’t been writing many plumbing articles lately – instead, I’ve been focusing on Google Adwords and various other SEO strategy items recently, but I have more articles on the way.)
Writing fiction is about feeling “The Muse”. I’ve got to have something that’s driving me to write, emotionally, or intellectually. I’ve written on Facebook (or in the blog here) about feeling The Muse, and basically giving up on what I was working on to go satisfy The Muse by writing for an hour or four. It really fits with the compulsive side of my ADHD quite nicely.
Now, writing fact based stuff on a schedule (two articles a week) is a lot different. Suddenly, I can’t just ignore it if I feel like writing. There’s no time for writer’s block, I’ve got a paycheck at stake. Only once have I passed on a subject that was on my writing list – it was seasonal allergies. I wrote an article on it, but I could never make it feel interesting, so I shelved it – which means I lost money on that one. However, I’m not declaring the article dead, it’s just in limbo until I can rework it properly.
Every week, another article on healthcare topics comes out of my fingertips. Not just “Hey, try coconut oil on that ecima, I hear it does wonders.” These are science based medical articles. I dig through places like the NIH’s research paper indexing system for the latest and greatest research on the topic. I dig in and read the papers (or, at least the abstracts when it’s sufficient), and learn the science of it. A couple years of this, and I’ll be ready to be a doctor or pharmacologist 😉 Take cannabinoids, for instance – I have three articles up about cannabinoids, that cover what they are, what they potentially do, and the legality of them at the moment. I don’t just write about it. I absorb myself into it for a short time, learn everything I can about it, then form it into an article. The articles themselves are heavily linked to authoritative sources. No, I don’t mean WebMD or something like that – the actual research papers, or places like the CDC. My article on Zika was roughly 1,000 words long, and linked to 16 sources where people could read a lot more on the topic. I’m basically doing everything I can to avoid “click bait” writing, and instead focusing on giving enough fundamentals for a person to understand the subject, while at the same time giving them info link in there they could really bone up on the subject. And it’s not that I’m unconcerned with the number of clicks an article gets – it’s actually important to the long term strategy – I’m just highly concerned with being trustable and educating people.
I don’t have a long, rich career in this sort of thing. I’ve only been doing it for a bit, and I’ve pumped out something like 16 articles between the two sites I do it for. Not exactly a ton of content, but I’m only doing it once a week. Heck, this wasn’t anything on my list of to do’s in life: I wanted to write books because I was driven to write books. Writing content, though, pays a good chunk of my bills, and my medical customer LOVES what I do. Plumbing customer is “OK” with it 🙂 If I had two or three more customers I was doing this for weekly, it would cover all my bills nicely. Haven’t been able to pull that off just yet, but give it time.
But, I’m starting to realize there’s a side effect to this. I’ve changed how my brain addresses the concept of writing now. It’s no longer just when The Muse calls. Now, it’s when I pick up the phone in my head and call The Muse. Once I get past certain events going on and coming up in my life, I’m going to be using that phone in my head a lot more – time to finish some books at some point, and if I can now force myself to write on demand, that’s a hell of a tool.
Here’s the thing though: if you would have asked me three years ago to write on demand, I would have told you to fly a kite – I can’t do it. Now, however, it’s not a huge problem. Yes, I get tripped up sometimes, but I still manage to get it done. Three years ago I would have said it might take me a couple months to write whatever it was someone was wanting, because I had to wait until I felt it. Things sure do change.
Novel image by Netfledge on Flickr