This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #006.
Nearly every person who calls themselves a writer has one dream objective that’s always hovering right in the back of their minds: they want to be able to make a living off of their writing. It’s the ever- elusive act of quitting our day job which we are all actively striving for.
The thing is, though, that the majority of us are far from putting in our two-week notice. Factor in the responsibilities of daily life, the cost of food and board, the act of caring for family members, and much more, and we’re left with the painfully unfortunate situation of having very little time to actually be able to dedicate to our dream job.
If you are part of that majority, the majority that doesn’t include Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, then you know just how important it is to make every effort count with your writing. But is there a way to go beyond that? Is there a way to economize our creativity, to allow our hand-crafted words and hard-fought grammatical victories to pull double duty, triple duty, or more?
The key to economizing your creativity, to get more out of your writing than its simple face value, is to remember that when you write something, it is yours. Those words, in that order, are your intellectual property, and until or unless you sign a contract to part with your writing, you can use those words in any way that you want.
What that means is that the blog post you wrote last week, the one you thought was pure genius, can become a series of tweets. The movie you watched last night wasn’t a waste of time, because now you have a movie review on your blog, a video review on YouTube, and your glowing recommendation on Facebook. The dream journal that you record your nightly adventures in every morning can become the inspiration for a short story, a novel, or a memoir.
There are over 7 billion people in this world. The chances are strong that there is someone, somewhere, who, upon discovering you, would become your biggest fan, would read everything that you write and impatiently demand for more.
Not everyone, however, is going to find you on Twitter. Not everyone is going to read your blog. Not everyone is going to watch your YouTube videos, listen to your podcast, or watch your live-stream. But each of those avenues of distribution affords you the opportunity to reach a greater and greater audience.
You never know how much interest you’ll garner through your varied distributions of your intellectual property. Perhaps someone will find you on YouTube, love your video essays, and seek you out on Kindle or Audible. Perhaps someone will keep up with your tweets for weeks, finally notice that pinned tweet on your profile, and become a rabid fan of your amazing podcast.
Of course, not every tweet is worthy of a YouTube video. Not every blog post is worthy of a live- stream event. So the question we’re left with is, how can we identify the projects that have the greatest potential to be economized, projects that we know will still be valid and meaningful long after we write them.
If you want to economize your intellectual property, you must start by identifying topics that you can write about that will translate well to different mediums. For example, I have a (rather inactive) YouTube account in which I critique and fix movies and TV shows based on, above all else, their story-telling merits.
There are plenty of people who seek out reviews and discussions about their favorite movies. So, of course, these videos would make great material for a blog. If there’s a lesson that I extracted from the movie that aids in the development of story-tellers, then those lessons would make perfect articles for a magazine intended to help story-tellers, such as, say, this one.
Hobbies are just as ripe for economization as anything if you’re clever about it. Say you love to go shopping. In that case, make a live-stream where you’re unpacking all of the items that you bought, make a YouTube video where you review each of them, and then send out a couple tweets recommending the greatest items in your haul.
Say you like to collect certain objects, such as coins, stamps, shot glasses, or spoons. As you collect those items, make a tiny little note about the situation under which you bought or found each of them. The next thing you know, you have a blog series and an upcoming Kindle book discussing your journey to develop the greatest coin or ugly sweater collection in the world.
Lean Into Your Interests
As you contemplate ways that you can economize your creativity, keep in mind that the best subjects to write about are going to be ones that interest you. If you’re an expert craftsman, but you hate writing how-to guides for power tools, it’s not going to magically become more enjoyable if you also decide to create a podcast explaining how to use power tools.
The things you write should always be those that pique your own interest, but that is even more the case, even more essential, if you’re going to be revisiting those works again and again in different forms.
When you’re writing, your goal is to try to elicit certain emotional responses from your readers. If you’re not excited about what you’re discussing, if it isn’t a topic that makes you giddy, and if every article or tweet is a chore, then you’re not going to be able to draw your readers in and allow them to have the sort of emotional response that keeps them coming back for more. That is equally true even when it is, in fact, a topic that they themselves have interest in.
While hundreds of thousands of individuals, if not more, claim the title of writer, much time and energy is required to really make a go of this profession. Thankfully, with a little planning, and a dash of creativity, your words can take you twice as far, if not further, towards your goal of being a successful writer.
The Writer’s Everything
This article, as well as many others, have been featured in previous issues of my writing journal, The Writer’s Everything, in which I, along with occasional guest contributors, provide essays, guides, encouragement, motivation, writing prompts, character bio development kits, and anything else that can help you turn your dream of becoming a writer into a reality.
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