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Our guest contributor today has several real-life examples on how to monetize your your own personal experiences. Read her piece below for inspiration and share in the comments how you have–or plan to–get paid for writing about your life.

pencils and books

Live a Little, Write a Lot
By Mary Cook

If you want to make a living as a writer, you need to get a life. Forget spilling a lifetime of memories. Autobiography only sells if you’re famous. (When you die, it could boost sales tenfold.)

Whatever your genre, if you infuse your writing with your own experiences, however trivial, your reader will gain a sense of the real person behind the pen. To date, I have seventy-five years of life experience. My first thirty years were as mundane as it gets: primary school, followed by high school, followed by a series of menial jobs. However, it was a time of self-discovery and observing the human condition. I didn’t realize then that I was storing memories which would later help me launch my writing career.

The more living I did, the more I had to write about.

Nearly everything that happens in your life can be used as a writing prompt. Dare to live a little more. You needn’t make every day an epic adventure, but if you program some excitement into your daily existence, you’ll tap into a vein of lucrative copy.

  • Take a different route to the store
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Learn a new skill
  • Study a language
  • Sample the cuisine of a different country

My life took a turn when I met the man who was to become my husband. I landed a column with an online food magazine about a local restaurant where we had our first date.

Dig deep into your memories for entertaining experiences. Pets and children fuel salable copy, so make them work for you. In our first year of marriage, my husband and I rented an apartment over a theatrical costume store. Deciding to explore the area, our cat mysteriously disappeared. After several days of anxious searching, we spotted him in a king-sized bed in a bedding showroom window just a few doors away. Our complex rescue operation led to several articles on the cat who soon received fan mail.

Later on, my husband and I dipped our toes into self-sufficient living. We persuaded a local business corporation to let us live on land they were developing into a nature trail. Taking up residence in a derelict house on the land, we paid nominal rent on the understanding we would carry out volunteer trail warden duties. Keeping bees as part of the experiment resulted in a business manual, Money in Honey, as well as articles for small farming magazines and country living publications.

Once established as a writer, I broadened my experience by taking a staff job on a regional newspaper. While there, I took on freelance editing work and wrote for writers’ publications.

The one thing my life lacked was a spiritual dimension. Together with my husband, I embraced Buddhism. Regular pilgrimages to our Japanese Buddhist temple led to travel articles and a contract as an overseas correspondent to a major Japanese magazine. The profound experience of being accepted into my faith became the theme of a prize-winning poem.

Live boldly. Live fully. Write prolifically.

Mary Cook is a UK-based writer and editor whose articles, short stories, and poems have appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online. She has contributed to many anthologies, including the Chicken Soup for the Soul and From Asia With Love series. She has also published a poetry collection, Collywobblers – Perverse Verse for Guys and Ghouls. Mary lives in the historic town of Gainsborough, which was capital of England for just forty days, starting in December 1013 when Sweyn Forkbeard was king. She shares a Victorian terraced house with her husband Nigel and their adored rescue dog Cleo.