While still in university, Ryan Murphy began seeking out ways to express himself creatively, which included hosting two radio shows a week, writing for campus newspapers and a humour newspaper, hosting a television show and a late-night show, and even performing stand-up comedy. “I tried just to express myself in every way I could, in every platform I could, and by the time I was able to graduate in ’99, I found that I had the experience that I needed to start doing that professionally as well.” This allowed him to build up quite a portfolio, which he was then able to shop around to radio stations, theatres and newspapers, showing them that he had the necessary experience and could handle the challenges.
Ryan has now been working as a freelancer for about 12 years and specializes in three niches: humour, sports and entertainment — the three areas he’s most passionate about. One of his favourite jobs was working for Fox Sports, where he ran his own popular question-and-answer column called Ask Ryan for a couple of years. “Because Fox Sports had such a great readership, and a built-in readership, it was amazing to be able to reach out to so many people, to interact with them, and to get all these crazy and wild questions that would really inspire me to do more research and find out more interesting facts.”
To him, the best part of being a freelance writer is the freedom. He enjoys being able to pursue the stories that interest him the most, while also setting his own hours. He also appreciates having a nice balance between work and play. The lack of security, however, can be hard sometimes. “You’re constantly hustling. You’re always looking for your next gig and for your next assignment.” If you can handle that insecurity, he says, the career can be wonderful. “But if you’re lacking in ambition and lacking in a lot of energy, freelancing can be a tough lifestyle.”
Whenever he gets stuck while writing, Ryan finds it best to just step away from the keys for a little while, and perhaps go for a walk, to help get his ideas flowing again. “Try not to think about it too much. I find when you’re stressing over things — or you’re really looking at those deadlines, or you’re really stuck on a word, a sentence, an idea — then it just becomes a bit of a downward spiral. You can really get stuck in that, and it really inhibits your creativity, so the more you can do to step away from that, to clear your head a little bit, and to get inspired by the world around you, that’s usually what helps for me.”
For those starting out in the profession, he recommends “just to keep on writing,” such as starting a blog where you can post frequently, so that you can discover your voice. “Be okay with the fact that you’re going to make mistakes. Know that you’re going to get better as time goes on. And just practice your craft.” Doing your research is also important, especially when it comes to knowing publications that are in line with your own interests, and then “take your time with your pitches and make sure they’re the best that they can possibly be before you start approaching people.”
You can learn more about Ryan through his LinkedIn profile.