Direct mail writers face the same pressure as journalists and all other professional writers: You have a deadline and you have to meet it without fail, or else. But there’s no “or else.” You just do it. This situation can be frustrating when you get tapped for ideas. But get this. We are all experts at multiple subjects you may not even be considering.
Be an Expert!
I will use myself as an example: I consider myself at least an enthusiastic amateur in the following areas:
- the s-f writer Philip K. Dick
- 20th century occultism
- taxi driving
- short order cooking
- musicologist Harry Smith
- modernist poetry
- contemporary indie crime fiction
Any of these topics, as well as any you might come up with, will offer about 10,000 ideas for articles on various subtopics based on what you are already very familiar with.
If you actually take the time to draw out a complete list of your interests, you’ll find you have an equally impressive list. Everybody has enthusiasms. The trick is getting them down on paper so you can explore them in your paying work.
Tapping into Your Own Personal Enthusiasms
There are always ways to tie your project into one of your personal enthusiasms. Let’s use Phil Dick for example. He was a prolific science fiction writer from the late 1950s through the early 1980s. A product of the Cold War era and of the Nuclear Paranoia that haunted the country in that era, Dick’s work explores that subject in detail over dozens of stories and novels. He also wrote the novels and short stories that inspired the movies Blade Runner, Minority Report, and many others. Being an “expert” on PKD could yield articles on anything he covered in his novels, such as cryogenics, androids, jug bands, early Christianity, Harrison Ford, and beyond!
Can You Canoe?
Another great example is canoeing. I didn’t set foot in a canoe until I was forty, and ten years later I am still an amateur—and worse, all my canoeing experienced is limited to one river. But even that limited experience offers me material for canoeing beginners, for details about canoeing the White River in Northwest Arkansas, and certainly for picturesque descriptions of the visual delights of a canoe trip on any river.
The point is, any topic that entertains and absorbs you, however mundane you might think it is, is likely a near-endless source of material for your professional work. You just have to look.
Don L is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.