Thursday, September 29, 2011

Specialists and Generalists Speak Out

Recently, I did a post on the difference between writers who are specialists and generalists. I think many writers have a little of both in them, and there are benefits to being each type of writer. However, it's nearly impossible to be one and the other.

So I asked readers of my free weekly newsletter to offer their thoughts on using the specialist or generalist approach. Here are some of my favorite responses:

Rodger Jacobs: Allow me to answer your question with a question: If I haven't eaten in two days (which I have not), my rent in a single-occupancy residential hotel is two weeks in arrears, and my monthly food stamp allotment of $122 was spent in less than two weeks, my next Social Security Disability payment isn't due until the third of next month, and yet I am still able to stand on my 20-plus years as a professional writer and journalist, am I generalist, a specialist, or what the market dictates I need to be if I want to supplement my meager income? Writers need to diversify like never before, especially independent contractors.

Dawn Herring: I think I fit best in the Specialist category since most of my writing is aimed toward journaling and positive change, with some spiritual writing mixed in connection with those two subjects. Much of my activity, in addition to my writing, is centered around journaling, since I host #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter for all things journaling. The writing I do in my newsletter, Refresh Journal, has the same focus (journaling and positive change) as well as my blog, Refresh with Dawn Herring.

Lila Johnson: After reading the article, I feel that I fall into the category of the generalist. Although I have completed my first manuscript and in the process of rewrites, articles seem to be my best bet. I love pulling a story together in a short amount of time. Writing articles pushes you to set up and complete an idea fast and furious. When you see your efforts print, you feel like, WOW, I did that. Afterwards, I am searching for the next assignment to fulfill the high I get from writing.

Tom Bentley: I'm a generalist and then some, and that can mean changing hats multiple times in a day. Last week I continued edits on a business book, wrote website copy, edited articles for an online newspaper, wrote a press release, wrote an element of a book proposal and wrote info for a newsletter promo. I truly enjoy the variety, but having multiple clients with sometimes overlapping deadlines can be challenging. I'm better now at estimating how long things will take and how to prioritize, but I'm far from perfect. And sometimes I get tired of the scramble. But I think I'd be bored with writing one kind of thing—white papers, for instance—and so I'm pleased the cascade of hat changes keeps me alert and active.

Aimee Jackson Fortney: Growing up, my sweet mother always said that if you go to bed at night and you did not learn anything new, then it was not a good day. I love to learn about everything and teach my daughter to be the same ... always inquisitive, always learning about every possible topic of interest (and her school subjects). That being said, I believe I am a Specialist. I write about food, and I appear on Nashville's NBC affiliate, WSMV twice a week sharing easy, economical meal ideas with viewers. I call myself, "Not the Perfect Cook." I mess up, I make mistakes, but I specialize in helping families get back in the kitchen and avoid the drive-through options. I specialize in being not perfect.

Stephanie Hoover: I am a "specialist" in the main. Although I've been selling my writing since 1984, I also work as a genealogical and historical researcher. Much of my writing (now) involves topics requiring deep, historical research--so I get to combine two passions into one career. I strongly recommend specialization to all new researchers and writers who ask me how to get into the business. For young writers, the intimate knowledge of one topic might help outweigh the lack of published clips.


Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


Check out these other posts for writers:

No comments: