Ooohhh! Changing markets
I’m not sure why people talk about ‘changing markets’ as a new bogeyman that writers have to conquer. Sure, SEO is new in the last 20 years, and maybe our writing takes different shapes for different purposes – blogs, emails, web blurbs or ghost writing insta-fabulous captions for people better looking than ourselves. But that has always been the case and is the nature of our work. We can be writing for a magazine one day and a hardware catalogue the next, with three hours in between on our unfinished novel.
What about the story?
Throughout all these little changes, there is one constant – the story. Everything we do is telling stories and the risk of focussing on the constantly changing landscapes for those stories is that we forget about the stories themselves. And as indexing algorithms get better, gaming the system with SEO becomes less relevant, and making your writing actually about something, becomes more so. So, the further our journey takes us from the story, the closer we are to going full circle, back to the story.
It’s not the market, it’s us
What we must fight against every day, though, is our own entropy. Humans are simple, lazy beasts and our skills deteriorate if we don’t constantly challenge them. This need to challenge seems like a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by maintaining awareness of the marketplace while challenging our skills to rise to the occasion. Do you know what that means? It means saying ‘yes’, when many of us are more inclined to say ‘no’.
Say yes to every bit of free training that you can fit between the paid work in your schedule. Do it partly for what you learn, because that can be useful, and partly for the people you learn with, because they are your insight to the changing market.
Look outward when you most want to focus in
This might be more about me than you, but whenever I feel myself focussing inwards on a job, I force myself to look out, and reach out. Because when I focus in, I get self-indulgent and dull. So: go to a dreaded networking event and meet some new people. Call an old client (not the same one as last time!) to see how they’re going. Call a potential new one, to learn what they want. And do a bit of reading, because there is SO much out there.
If you can’t do six impossible things before breakfast, just do one thing that scares you, later in the day
Take on things that that scare you. Do a course that sounds hard. Say ‘yes’ to a job that sounds hard. A year ago, I was commissioned to write a book – a wonderful and terrifying prospect, if ever there was one. I fought fear of failure for a month or two, went over my first deadline, had criticism from the client, fully committed to the writing, learned I could pump out 10,000 words in a week and moved my client so much that she cried. It is a rollercoaster that is making me a far better writer, and I apply what I have learned in every other writing job I do.
Commit to the different – keep on changing
So, really, it’s not about the market. It’s about you. And me. We must commit to constant change but know what we want to do so we have a bit of direction. We must constantly reach out, and listen out, to understand how we can tell better stories in the forms that people want to receive them.
The answer lies in reaching out, not staying in.