Ask Alex: Stuck in a Writing Rut

Dear Alex,

How can a writer rebrand themselves; what columnists have done so successfully? After writing a book and hundreds of blog posts, I’m officially uninspired writing for my particular niche market.

Sincerely,

Same old, Same old

This Month, Dave Astor and Mike Morin offer advice:

Dear Same old, Same old,

Leonard Pitts Jr. is one example of a famous columnist who reinvented himself. He wrote about the rather large niche of pop music before beginning his syndicated Miami Herald opinion feature that eventually won a Pulitzer Prize (in 2004). Anna Quindlen, another Pulitzer winner for commentary (in 1992), remade herself into a best-selling novelist.

Reinventing ourselves often involves thinking about what we really enjoy doing – and then trying to make that happen. I’ve attempted this a few times, and hopefully the brief summary below of two of those experiences might be helpful to you.

In 2003, I had a full-time job covering newspaper syndication for a trade magazine – mostly straight-news reporting. I wanted to also do funny opinion writing, which I thought I had a knack for, so I put together a sample humor column for my hometown weekly newspaper – and they ran it! I’ve now freelanced that local “Montclairvoyant” feature for more than 14 years.

In 2009, I started writing national humor pieces for The Huffington Post that received good, but not great, response. I was always an avid reader of novels, so, two years later, I began writing blog posts for HP’s book section. Those pieces became very popular, and I eventually started my own literature blog in 2014. Also, blogging on that subject inspired me to write a literary-trivia book published this year.

While it’s often not financially lucrative, launching your own blog is a great way to rebrand yourself and write what you want to write. Sometimes, that can lead to good things – including possibly making some money and finding other writing opportunities.

Dave Astor is an NSNC board member who  writes the weekly “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com, blogs weekly at DaveAstorOnLiterature.com, and is the author of the 2017 book “Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia.”

 

***

Dear Same old, Same old,

Wal*Mart is hiring for the holidays. Ohhh, that’s not the nouveau niche you had in mind. Sorry. In a roundabout way of answering your question, I left my 45-year radio career not long ago, so that I could fully reinvent myself. Getting up at 3:15 a.m. every day didn’t leave time or energy to do the other things I had hoped to accomplish, one of which was writing a book on a popular and unique New England cultural activity no one has written about. Local media is already asking me to alert them when it drops next summer! The experience, at about 80% complete, has been a boost to my creative juices and is very gratifying. The topic has little to do with my years as a broadcaster or columnist. Consider picking a completely different interest about which you have some passion and explore ways to exploit it. Is it a hobby? Social cause? It may be so obvious that you perhaps never thought about it. That was my situation. Then begin your homework. I promise you that your research will take you places you never imagined. Hey, how about a book about the Wal*Mart Greeters Hall of Fame? Good luck!

 

Mike Morin‘s memoir, “Fifty Shades of Radio, True Stories of a Morning Radio Guy Being Wired, Tired and Fired,” covers his 45 years in radio and TV broadcasting. Aside from his Tuesday column in the Nashua Telegraph, Mike writes humor essays for New Hampshire Magazine and is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He is currently writing a book on the candlepin bowling stars who became local celebrities thanks to the exposure they received from Channel 5’s CANDLEPIN BOWLING show. “Lunch with Tommy and Stasia-TV’s Golden Age of Candlepin Bowling” will drop in September of 2018.

***

Do you ever wish you had a mentor to give you advice about the business? Sure, we have the Columnist Clubhouse as a place where anyone can go to gather, share, and offer support. Of course, you can always post questions there. But people don’t always see every post and let’s face it, maybe you have a question you don’t want to just pitch out there publicly. Or maybe you prefer to stay anonymous. Well, the seasoned columnists in our membership have a solution for you. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists introduces Ask Alex, an advice column for members by members. Alex is the beloved gender-neutral nickname for our logo. Consider Alex an agent if you will, an agent who will seek the right columnist to answer your question in a future newsletter. Have a question? All you have to do is ask! Send questions to NSNCAskAlex@gmail.com. You must be a member for your question to be considered. Not a member yet? Become one by clicking HERE.

More Questions Answered:

Man of Many Words: Word Count Matters

Free Trail and Error: Getting Paid for Your Column

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