Yesterday, we talked about selling your experiences as personal essays, and markets which pay $2 a word for them.
This is all very well, however you need to produce a consistent stream of material. When I got started writing regularly for magazines, I made it a habit to send out five queries a day.
Yes, FIVE a day, every day. This was pre-Web, and pre-email. You sent your queries via postal mail. Once you wrote regularly for a publication, you got your editor’s fax number, so you faxed your queries.
This taught me a valuable lesson: consistently coming up with ideas means sales and money. I developed my “idea catching” routine, which I maintain to this day.
Catch your ideas: 5 ideas a day
Here’s a snippet from Memories: Writing and Selling Your Life Stories (Workbook and Videos) about idea catching:
Every day, add FIVE new ideas to your journal. Write one paragraph for each idea.
These ideas can be anything at all which strikes you as interesting.
You may not use these ideas this week. Indeed, you may never use any of the ideas. However, the mere fact that you’re doing this will increase your writing ability, as well as your ability to sell your writing.
Chances are, you won’t use any of the ideas as-is. However, they will be useful.
Here’s an episode to show you how useful this can be. Early in the 1990s, I was writing regularly for several computer magazines, and women’s magazines. The editor of a mass market magazine asked me to come in to have a chat. This often happens when you write for a publication. It’s an opportunity for the editor to pick your brain, and to see what ideas you have that you could write for them.
The night before, I flipped through my files, and wrote up a couple of story ideas. I was sure the editor would find these ideas useful…
Long story short, she didn’t. We were chatting away about magazines and writers in general, and she asked me what I was working on. This is code for: “Pitch me.”
I did. She agreed they were great ideas.
Great, yes… But she wouldn’t commit. I was frustrated — not a nibble!
We kept on chatting, drinking coffee and eating pastries. (It was a morning meeting.)
Although I was keeping my mind on the conversation with one half of my brain, the other half was frantically searching my mind for other ideas I could pitch. Luckily, I had plenty of them — at this stage, I’d already been using my journal as an idea catcher for several years.
Casually, I tossed out three ideas. She bit. I walked out with a contract for three articles; it was a great morning’s work.
I’m sure that if I hadn’t been in the habit of catching ideas every day, I would have walked out of the meeting empty-handed.
If you’re not in the habit of “catching” ideas, I commend this process to you. The best (and easiest for you to write) ideas come from your own experiences. Ideas mean sales, and money.
Catch some ideas today.