Friday, May 10, 2013

Betting on a Hunch

What do horseracing and freelance writing have in common? Actually, quite a bit. Before someone places a bet on a horse, he or she has to study the racing sheet—the lineup for the race. Based on the knowledge they glean from constantly studying these sheets, they pick a horse that they hope will be a winner and place their bet. But sometimes they play a hunch.

Hunches, intuition, and instinct can play a major role in freelance writing. A writer bases all of them on prior knowledge and experience and draws conclusions from what has been learned in similar situations.

Before the days of the automobile, people lost in blizzards or too drunk to drive let go of the reins and counted on the instincts of the horse to get them home. They took a calculated risk, knowing from past experience that their horse would probably make it home. Developing your understanding of your instincts, hunches, and intuitions coming from your subconscious to a fine point so that you’re in a position to take the necessary calculated risks is something you’ll need to work on.

You’ll have to rely on them many times for guidance in the management of your career as well as the shaping of your imaginative work. The trick is to induce your subconscious to work smoothly with the rest of your mind.

Unfortunately, all three of these are notoriously hard to schedule exactly. In spite of your encouraging them, they often doze in some dark corner of your subconscious. Perhaps the best way of luring them out is to lay out a rational game plan. By having such a plan you can lure your hunches to help solve problems.

You could apply this principle to plotting a course for your work over the next year. If you sit down and examine what you did last year with an eye to deciding what you’d like to do this year, you’ll have something to guide you when the hunches start occurring. Besides listing the projects you can count on, add some others just in case those don’t work out. Most likely you’ll get hunches about market trends, but you may also get a hunch or two about that sort of pieces may best fit the adjusted scenario.

In all probability you won’t sell to exactly the markets you targeted. But from experience—instinct—you know which ones will most likely buy the type of writing you do. Plus, you already know the editors with whom you have a working relationship. You already know how much time different types of projects take to finish. All of this gives you an instinct to search out places where your work is more or less guaranteed to be sold. By planning ahead, you’ll be able to find the right ideas early enough to stay ahead of your competition.

Hunches, instinct, and intuition can also play a part in predicting when markets will go bad. Sometimes, the writing, as they say, is on the wall. Unfortunately, you probably have looked up from your computer long enough to see it. Has a publisher been repeatedly late with payments recently? Is an editor forgetting that he or she made an assignment? Have market trends in a particular subject area been showing that there’ less interest in that subject? And is the opposite also true? Has a particular subject gotten more press lately, making it more visible?

Betting on a hunch in any of those areas is a calculated risk but one that may yield great results. 


Shawn Deny said...

You’ll have something to guide you when the hunches start occurring. Besides listing the projects you can count on, add some others just in case those don’t work out.

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