(Note: This is based on one of the questions asked in Ron Elsdon’s book How to Build a Nontraditional Career Path: Embracing Economic Disruption.)
Over the course of my career I’ve had the opportunity to write about a lot of topics, industries and products. I’m sure I’m leaving more than one thing off, but the list includes:
- Health insurance exchanges
- Comic books
- Movies and TV shows
- Embedded technology
- Marketing, advertising and public relations (and variations thereof)
- Domain registry
- Condominiums and apartments
- Enterprise translation software
- Online publishing
- Construction and architecture
- Small businesses
That’s not a bad list. I’m sure others have done more and would have a more varied portfolio, but that’s mine.
When someone asks me, usually in the context of an interview for either a full-time or freelance/contract position, what I enjoy writing about (they want to see if I’m going to be a good subject-matter fit for them) I truthfully answer with something like, “I just enjoy writing.”
It’s true, not just a vague deflection to say the not-quite-right thing while avoiding saying the totally-wrong thing. I simply enjoy the act of writing.
Each freelance project, each new client assignment, is an opportunity for me to learn something. I know more about motorcycle safety than I did six months ago because I had to complete a handful of assignments on that topic for a freelance client. That experience was channeled into the finished product, which was meant to inform people.
Writing helps me channel that learning into something useful. You know how your teachers always told you that taking notes was the best way to retain information because you had to process it and do something with it? Same basic concept.
Even when it’s not a freelance project, I’ve often described my personal writing as “me thinking out loud.” My posts often sound like I’m kind of working out an idea in real time because that’s what they are. I write a little, do a bit of research to see if my thinking can be supported in a substantial way, write a little bit more, do more research and so on.
I was never the greatest student in a formal classroom structure, but I swear if every class had been “Here’s a book (this was the 80s and 90s, remember) or three on a subject and here’s what we want you to learn, so go write 1,200 words on it” I would have dominated. It’s the way my brain works. That’s why the part of my work as a writer I enjoy most is the opportunity to learn new things and share what I’ve learned with others.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.