We often think our fears and neuroses hold us back as writers. We talk in terms of worries weighing us down, and fears needing to be wrestled with. Yet in the last few years, I’ve started to see that stuff that keeps you up at night as something else too: great subject matter.
When a worry arises, I still face it, do what I need to do…but often I’ll also put my writer hat on. Maybe other people are stressing too? Can I write about this? Next I’ll head to the Internet, both to satisfy my curiosity, and test the waters for an assignment. Here are two examples of where my worrying has led to work.
A few years ago, a friend got a horrible surprise when she found bed bugs had invaded her home. I was aghast. Could bed bugs travel? I’d had this friend in for dinner…did she carry bugs into my house? Why were bed bugs suddenly such a problem? What did they look like? How do you get rid of them? I couldn’t stop.
Online, I read about a North American bed bug explosion, found some helpful tips, and potential interviewees. So I started querying, spinning the idea this way and that for different publications. All told, my knee-jerk fears morphed into three solid assignments. I wrote two articles for parenting magazines on how families can evade the pests; and one for a health and wellness magazine on natural treatment methods for bed bugs. (“Mom, are you writing about bed bugs again?” my son was prone to ask during this period.)
And speaking of my son, let me share a deeper concern. Since he was born I’ve occasionally felt anxiety about his status as an only child. The nosy comments and casual judgments I get from complete strangers don’t help either. (“You better get busy and have another one or he’ll be spoiled.”)
Here again, I started researching to try and calm my fears. And it didn’t take me long to see that one-child families are another hot trend. One day I came across the work of parenting expert Susan Newman, PhD, author of three books about “singletons”, plus a blog for Psychology Today. My first queries on the topic of “onlies” landed me one small assignment for a parenting blog. And, to my delight, Newman graciously agreed to be interviewed for my little piece. I decided to go for it. On the strength of Newman’s participation, I pitched and landed three more assignments about onlies, one a feature for a national newspaper.
Writing so personally requires some courage and vulnerability. (I also highly recommend talking to your family beforehand.) But the benefits are many. As discussed, good personal stories can lead to assignments. But writers will see other rewards too. For example, my newspaper article about onlies really connected. It got picked up by many other dailies and I can’t tell you how many people thanked me for writing it. Not only did I address my fears, I got to share encouraging information and research with a much larger audience. I made a difference. And for a writer, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Connie Jeske Crane is a passionate, hardworking freelance writer whose aim is to offer a fresh and personal take on everyday life. Based in Toronto, Canada, Connie writes frequently on parenting, health and wellness, green living, and feminism. Her work has appeared in major publications including the National Post, ParentsCanada, Herizons, and Babble.com. You visit her at www.conniejeskecrane.com or her blog at www.conniejeskecrane.com/blog.html.
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