Should You Specialize in a Given Subject as a Writer - or Not?


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Okay, so you are interested in writing something, anything, but don't know where to begin. For example, you're not sure whether you should know something about a given subject or not.

According to Bob Bly, you should specialize after you've had some things published and gained some recognition as a writer. This is probably excellent advice if you are interested in a few things and are unable to decide which of those things you should write about. Doing this is a great idea, in my opinion, if you just want to get an article written and ready for publication. Your enthusiasm enables you to move forward and sets a pace. You are so busy writing about some aspect of a given subject that you don't even feel tempted to procrastinate, which is always a good thing. And who knows, that piece's chances of getting into print will be pretty good. Once it's been published, you will likely feel motivated to write on a more regular basis.

On the other hand, you may have had specialized training in medicine or accounting or teaching or whatever and have no problem engaging in shop talk with colleagues, friends and family. You are very much aware of problems in the field and have had some experience with them. For these reasons, you should consider writing articles about some aspect of your field, such as its problems, and getting that article published in a related professional journal or magazine. As in the first case, you are thoroughly familiar about your subject and are not likely to procrastinate. And as in the first case, you will feel motivated to continue writing on a more regular basis. In fact, writing will become a bit easier, and you will not have to struggle with beginning paragraphs and the like.

Doing this has worked well for me. An elementary teacher, I was familiar with problems in my field and developed a few solutions for them. Then I packaged these solutions into various articles and was subsequently published in Instructor magazine, where I later accepted a freelance position as contributing editor. Two or three years later, I combined a few articles, expanded their content into a how-to book for elementary teachers called, Teaching Ideas for the Come-Alive Classroom (Parker Pub. Co. /Prentice-Hall).

Ultimately, you have a few decisions to make. For example, do you think that you need more direction and structure? Then consider the first option by choosing something that really interests you, asking yourself who your target audience would be, and what it would like to know.

On the other hand, if you already have some training in a trade or profession, you know a lot about it and should consider sharing your insights with colleagues, then a general audience.

Whatever you decide to do, just know that you aren't “stuck" in a given subject or field, but are free to build on it, or choose a different field to write about. In the meantime, you will have gained valuable experience and contacts. Good luck in your efforts and thank you for reading.

A published author, Dorothy Zjawin will be happy to answer your questions! Her website, , includes practical articles on writing and developing ideas from journals. Her other writing credits include 30 published Instructor articles and a book, Teaching Ideas for the Come-Alive Classroom (Parker Pub. Co. /Prentice-Hall).


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