Photo of a battered mailboxI get mail, and I sincerely appreciate that! It’s nice to know so many nurses who read RN2Writer are seriously pursuing freelancing and take my tips and advice to heart. It warms my cockles.

Like the old cliche says, I’m unable to respond personally to everyone who writes (though I do get back to most of you!). Occasionally I’ll select a question to be featured on the blog, and today is the first one!

Dear Beth,

Here is a dumb question: how do you come up with ideas?

I feel like I can answer any question about pregnancy, but looking at those pregnancy magazines, I feel like it is repeated content in different words, if that makes sense.

Yes, that makes perfect sense. You, my friend, have discovered a truth many seasoned freelancers already know: Most women’s magazines recycle the same content over and over, changing the slant only slightly. Pick up a year’s-worth of back issues of any newsstand magazine (particularly the ones aimed at women) and compare the articles. Does every issue of Woman’s Day contain an article on eating healthy? Does every issue of Redbook contain an article on anti-aging? Yes!

In fact, this constant recycling of content has been parodied in this hypothetical Cosmopolitan cover (followed by a year of real covers — interesting research there).

But to your question.

As an L&D nurse, you possess great depth of knowledge about pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care. However, none of that may actually be suitable material for a glossy pregnancy magazine. Your knowledge probably falls into the “evergreen” category. Evergreen content is timeless. Topics like “how to pack for the hospital” or “how to care for your episiotomy” have been done to death, and you probably can’t add anything new.

Instead, your goal should be to leverage your background to find news related to pregnancy and then generate an appropriate slant or angle for the target audience.

If you routinely read pregnancy news, you might find a story like “New study shows maternal postpartum infections on the rise.” How can you spin that to a specific audience? You need to find a publication that targets women who are concerned about health and pregnancy. Then, you might use this study as a jumping-off point for: “3 Tips to Avoid Taking an Infection Home after You give Birth” or “Take Home Baby, Not Germs!” Or “Natural Disinfectants You Can Use Postpartum.” Those are hokey, but they give you an idea of how to do this.

Editors love a “news peg.” You’ll have the most success if you pitch new, breaking information packaged in a way the publication’s audience can consume it.

If it helps any, let me say I also struggle with pitching stories. That’s one reason why I rarely do it anymore. It’s labor-intensive and time-consuming. But it’s a crucial skill for freelance journalists. Linda Formichelli at the Renegade Writer blog just wrote a great post about this very subject: “Here’s Why Your Cool Article Ideas Aren’t Selling.”

Thank you for the question, and best of luck in selling some stories soon!

What questions do you have for RN2Writer? Feel free to email me using the contact form, or post your questions in the comments section.

Wishing you well!