I confess, my writing assignments are boring. I write on some of the driest topics and content, but that is the market niche where I also have the most experience and knowledge. Articles on project management, disaster recovery, contingency planning and even the dreaded technology audit just don’t lend themselves to an entertaining or witty writing style. Yes, these assignments pay good, but something was missing. Travel? Fiction? Personal interest? I was burning out.
Where I live in Minnesota, we have a free, monthly wine-related newspaper that is distributed throughout the Midwest in retail liquor stores. Supported by advertisements, they have several articles on winemakers, wine reviews and industry trends each month. As a wine geek, I enjoyed reading each issue but I also thought about something that was missing, and had an idea. Wine people – myself included – can be kind of snobbish and aloof. Talking about aromas, fruit forward palate, Parker scores and the age ability of a first growth Bordeaux versus a California Cab can glaze over the eyes of anyone but the most diehard readers. Even the “Wine 101” articles tend to be straightforward tomes and almost border on a lecture. What we needed was some fun. Perhaps even some fun at our own pretentious expense.
I contacted the Editor with my proposal. I outlined a no-holds-barred, yet humorous, look at various aspects of the local wine industry. Nothing would be off limits. I would be free to comment on restaurant wine service, boring cookie cutter wine lists, retail “sales” tricks, snobbish consumers and anything else that jumped to mind. Kind of like an offensive, not prime time, Andy Rooney take on the world of wine. After a few emails back and forth regarding the format and frequency, along with a sample article, we agreed to terms and I was on monthly deadlines!
If you choose to pursue writing something very far outside of your norm, consider doing it under a pen name. These articles definitely don’t belong in my regular clipping files that I send with proposals. While negotiating the payment terms, we included an anonymous byline clause along with only 90-day exclusive rights so that I could republish these on a blog site (again, not linked to my primary work). This has allowed me to build a second income stream separate from my traditional technical articles, while also expanding my versatility.
Since 1996, Ken Koch has been providing business consulting, training, and professional development articles/speaking engagements to a broad range of industries across the world. Ken has helped large multi-national corporations, “mom and pop” stores, and government agencies (local, regional, state and federal). His focus is on disaster and contingency mitigation, preparation, and event management. Ken can be reached at kkoch-at-brmonline.com