I've learned something interesting as I've navigated the writing world. It's something that I've tried to share with various writers, but many still don't seem to get it.
First and foremost I want to write books and so do most of the writers I associate with. But the problem is they get inside this little box of the "novel writer" and they cringe at the thought of learning to write anything else, let alone attempting to get it published.
The problem with this is multi-faceted. First, that only limits you as a writer. To say "I'm a poet and so I only write poetry" is like enjoying a certain food and only eating that day after day. Some forms of writing may seem foreign and awkward at first, but there is something to be learned in tasting them all. All it can do is expand your experience as a writer.
The second problem is that in being so narrow-minded, many writers think that they're going to write this first book and get it published all within this safety zone they've created. They don't consider that writing is a business and a successful writer must be businesslike. No one would attempt to open a business without networking and advertising and so how can you, as a writer, expect to succeed likewise. Networking comes through expanding your horizons and taking chances when they present themselves.
Case in point. Shortly after I began writing my first book, I started writing articles for a small, though nationally syndicated, magazine. The two didn't seem to have much to do with each other until it was time to promote my book and the magazine I'd been writing for gave me a coveted spot on their product spolight page--introducing me to 60,000 potential readers. And more recently, I finally got a review of my second book in my state's largest newspaper--probably because I'd been writing for them for a few months!
Along the way my various writing experiences have introduced me to a variety of people and sources for improving my skills, marketing my books and finding the motivation that I've needed. So when I encourage writers to never pass up an opportunity to write--whether it's a product detail brochure for a local business or an article in a local newspaper--just take the chance and run with it. You never know where it will lead.