Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Writing Life

One of the realities of writing as a specialist on a particular subject is that you craft a lot of material in the off-season--true for the generalist with a specific advance assignment too, but the volume of output is likely much less. Magazine editorial calendars are set in place in advance of issue appearances, a fact that readers don't likely meditate on all that much. They buy the mag and read it. Period. No complaints here as any of this goes. I'm happy to think and write about wild turkeys year-round.

As an example of this, I ordered my New York State small game and turkey permit online this morning as the Oct. 1 season approaches, and also began a spring feature article for a turkey magazine. I'm planning for the fall of '07 as a hunter, and the spring of '08 as a writer. On Monday, I sent a different turkey feature (spring emphasis) to a different national magazine. You get the idea. I'm also currently working on a book manuscript (Turkey Calls and Calling) due to the publisher by May 1, 2008 . . .

One of the realities of being a so-called specialist is that one often has generalist markets as well. As a longtime content producer for several different Sunday newspapers, I write about both mallard and monarch butterfly migrations. That's cool too, as the audience is often broad, composed of hardcore hunters and those who don't.

My newspaper page subjects this year have included ice angling, fly tying, porcupines, bird dogs, bowhunting deer, waterfowling, and in one column I'm writing now, books and websites worth checking out.

Every now and again a student or reader will ask me if I think they have what it takes to become a writer. Depends on whether you want to publish at a casual pace, or write and sell magazine articles, newspaper columns, books and photographs on a steady basis. I do the latter. You might want to opt for the former. It's the best kind of life possible for me, but I doubt it is for everyone.

Are you obsessive-compulsive about your desire to craft words into sentences? Do you love the language, and enjoy the revision process? Do you have a passion about something (i.e. wild turkeys, etc.), so much so that your television viewing is limited to just sports in the evening and on weekends as a way to unwind? (Note my Steelers schedule posting.) Are you thick-skinned and also immune to inflated forms of flattery? In any one day as a full-time freelancer I am both knocked down and picked up, email depending. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

--Steve Hickoff