This is a guest post by Ciaran R. Maidwell
At some point in your freelance career, you will be presented with the option to write on a topic that you either have no real interest in or that you don’t have any prior knowledge about (the former often begetting the latter). This will probably happen multiple times as you establish yourself as a writer – and the decision about whether or not to take the job can because for some stress.
Two major concerns can arise from this particular crisis: one existential, the other practical. The writer’s existential crisis involves thorough self-reflection: wondering whether you’re being true to yourself or selling out by posing as someone who can write about this topic about which you know nothing.
As writers, we tend to live in our own heads and this kind of battle of conscience can be taxing. In an ideal world, we would only write about what we care about and our writing would be phenomenal because it would come from a place of passion. However, we could all stand to care a little more, about topics that might not be in our frame of reference. “But I don’t want to care about corporate investment banking”. Fair enough. At the very least, any and every foray into an unknown territory can be a learning experience, and for a writer, knowledge is power – the wider your knowledge base, the more interesting metaphors you can construct, the more convincing subjectivities you can create and tune into and understand.
If this fails and you really can’t work up an interest – fake it. Fake it ‘till it sounds like you care. Writing is all about getting people to see something from a point of view other than their own, and any writer (fiction, non-fiction, journo etc.) needs to be able to write outside of their own subjectivity in order to effectively engage with the reader. This leads to the second crisis, namely concerns about practicality: How can you write convincingly on a subject you know so little about, even if you can make yourself care?
Despite how daunting it may seem, some thorough research can go a long way. Your goal is to sell the product, service or concept to the reader, and having research to substantiate your claims can lend credibility to your thoughts without having to voice your personal opinion. One of the core tenets of freelance writing is adaptability – ensuring you are able to meet the client’s needs as well as keeping up with, or ahead of, trends. The ability to write passionately and convincingly about a variety of subjects makes you more employable, not less. After all, change is the only constant, and the only way to deal with it is to plunge into it headfirst.
Another clever way to make it seem like you know what you’re talking about is to imitate the writing style, tone and register of other articles or blog posts which deal with the same topic – this will create an unconscious link between your writing and established norms which the reader has previously encountered. In fact, this should arise naturally as a result of research. It works every time – trust me, I’m doing it right now.