The first day of my PhD program, my advisor said, “You know there are no jobs, right?” I knew, but I didn’t care. I wanted to write about South Asia and history for a broader audience than the other five people interested in my dissertation topic. I wanted to write for history buffs and nerdy kids and the intelligent general reader.
When I finished my degree, I started writing for magazines aimed at history buffs, nerdy kids and –you get the idea. My first, and second, and third sales came straight from my dissertation research. Then I got an e-mail from an editor that said: “I know this isn’t what you normally do, but….” Suddenly the words “not my field” no longer applied. The fence of academic boundaries that had been both bulwark and prison was gone.
These days I write about a wide range of historical topics, from ancient Peru (Not just the Incas. Who knew?) to World War II. At least half the time I’m writing outside of “my field”. And at the end of every day I have a great story that didn’t quite fit in the piece at hand, a dangling idea that I want to play with, a connection I want to explore, or a book that I can’t wait to share with someone else.
I hope that someone will be you. Read along. Make a comment. Suggest a topic. Enjoy the ride.