I Do Three Very Different Kinds of Writing on a Daily Basis
Writing comes in a lot of flavors. Fiction, business, essays, poetry, technical writing, marketing content and copy, how-to; the variety is staggering but it all serves the unifying purpose of helping humans communicate through language and experience. And most writers work in more than one of these disciplines.
I’m no exception but in my case each of my modes are equal parts of my life as a professional writer. I do freelance business marketing content, write novels, and do free form pieces like the work I do here. The challenge is to shift gears on a daily and intradaily basis without losing my marbles or sending out substandard work.
I may write a piece on writing, creativity, or lifestyle issues in the morning while having my coffee. Then I switch to my freelance stuff which must conform to client requirements for SEO, length and style, and subject matter. My process for doing this is well-developed so the switch isn’t as jolting as you might think.
But then there is the novel…
The third type of writing is a very different thing. It comes from a different place and it’s style and substance are entirely personal. Writing long form fiction requires, as you’ve read many times, daily dedication to a word count. Unlike my other work, I do not edit it after writing and often wait until several thousand words have been written to even read it.
This method, which works for me but possibly not for others, is because I’m in for the long haul and as I write the first draft I want it to follow its own path without my thinking too much about where it’s going. I’ve found that when I do that it surprises me, generally in a good way. And I can always chop and repair later.
I usually write fiction in the late afternoon. After all that other writing earlier it is actually relaxing to let go and let the words do their thing. This is really the benefit of doing all three types of writing. The contrast, the ideas, the discipline, and the storytelling support each other in subtle ways that I’ve learned to balance.
A typical day (?)
Today has been one. This morning I wrote a thousand word essay on balance in writing. Then I started a three thousand word piece on a software platform that has a very specific and targeted purpose and structure. Then a walk, some lunch, a macchiato and I sit down to pick up my story, falling into a completely different flow.
I put the question mark in this subhead because I don’t have a typical every day. I may not have any freelance assignments that are pressing. Or I may be burned out on the article writing. On those days I don’t worry about that stuff because I know it will come back. Maybe I work out, take a walk, or do some cooking.
I do try to work on my current novel project everyday. I’m pretty early into the new one, at that stage where you’re not quite sure the thing has the legs required to get to 80,000 to 100,000 words or more. So plugging away might mean doing work that gets filed away, but if you don’t stay consistent it will lose its life force. Which is a very sad thing when it happens.
I’m not necessarily recommending that all writers work like this but many of those that I admire do mix up genres successfully. I think they do it to polish their ability to string words together in a compelling way. I learned that, in part, from the mundane task of writing ad copy and how-to books. Those books, primarily written for money, also taught me I could sustain a project over the length required.
I could give examples of how each discipline informs the others but I think you get my point. There may be a time when I drop the freelance work if the negative outweighs the positive. I see myself leaning into the two more creative types. But time will tell. I’m not quite ready to walk away from those freelance payments!