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Cashable Versatility

by The Editor Company   


There is one thing that most struggling young writers learn sooner or later, by experience alone—and the sooner the better for the ordinary scribe—seeking, not name nor fame, but a living income. This is the value of versatility in literary work; the ability to write easily and gracefully on a variety of subjects.

Many advocate the necessity of concentration—learning by experience, what one can do best, then doing that line of work exclusively. This is, undoubtedly, excellent advice to any one wishing to leave a name behind him; to do little, but do that little so well that it will live; but to the ordinary writer, who expects to realize anything like a fair income while reaching for higher things, it is not the surest road to a modest degree of success. Neither will it injure his ability nor lessen his capacity for story writing or other literary"efforts, to be able to produce rhymes; jokes; recipes; crop reports; household, floral, toilet, fashion, dairy, poultry, scientific or any other kind of articles which the market may demand; and it will certainly furnish bread, butter and postage stamps, if well done.

There are, however, a few necessary requirements to this line of work, the most important being a quick, observing eye and mind; a wide and varied knowledge of life and the world in general; and the practical sense to use the knowledge possessed to best advantage, and to be constantly acquiring more.

Perhaps this may seem like an insurmountable obstacle at the very beginning; for, of course, if one does not know, nor has ability to find out, anything about a subject, writing about it is—or should be—out of the question; but the finding out, is, to the right sort of person, much easier than it may appear. How does the newspaper reporter "find out" the material for the almost limitless variety of articles, or stories, which he is called upon to furnish, and that with certain restrictions which the hack writer can avoid?

Do you wish to write recipes or household articles? Go to some good cook or housekeeper; solicit an interview; get her to give you her rules and methods while you listen, ask questions and take notes.

Do you wish to write crop reports, dairy, poultry or general farm articles? Go out among the farmers, the stock raisers, the dairy or poultry men—or women—and learn all that they can tell you of their most successful methods. Probably it will be enough, if you listen and take notes intelligently, to keep you in subjects for a time.

It will not hurt you, if a man, to spend your vacations as a "hired hand" on the farm. Go out into the Western harvest fields and follow the binders; "pitch" bundles to a threshing machine. It will be quite as exciting as baseball and less dangerous.

If you are a woman, you may, perhaps, be able to pay your board, through vacation, by "helping" in a kitchen or dairy; by feeding the chickens or cooking for farm hands; and, incidentally, see, hear and learn much that will be of untold value to you, not to mention "plots" innumerable.

If you have a camera, take it along. Don't be content with photographing pretty and romantic scenes ; but get a good picture of the biggest hog, calf, steer or horse in the neighborhood ; find out what breed it is and how it was raised. More people will pay to see and hear something of that sort than of your poetic inspirations in regard to the sunset.

Get good views of some of the best, or most convenient, or most artistic farm houses. The best planned and cared for grounds, gardens, orchards, and learn all you can about them—it will pay.

Follow the same plan, with other subjects. Go to the ones who know; and not only hear and take notes, but learn something of each subject, for future use. In a short time you will have gained a fund of useful information, of more value to you than a college course.

Now, as to markets for such work: begin by cultivating an intimate acquaintance with as many farm, trade and specialty publications as possible. Learn all that you can of their requirements and editorial policy regarding manuscripts. The various writers' magazines will help you much in this, but much must be learned by experience. Then there remains only perseverance and hard work.