Writing has been part of my life ever since I’ve started school.
I was terrible at math, and anything related to numbers and shapes was nothing but a big cluster f — oxtrot, my mind couldn’t process. Science wasn’t much better. History was kind of okay. Geography and Biology almost fun at times but the only thing I enjoyed more than recess, weekends and graduation was anything related to writing
All I wanted to do, was to turn seemingly lose words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into one single coherent block of text.
The fact that in storytelling you can virtually be anyone and let the story go anywhere fascinated me. I was attracted to imaginary characters and scenarios. I was obsessed with connecting the dots or leave a trail of confusion for my audience — An audience of 3 that was, and it included my mom, my sister (on good days) and Mr. Leeman, my creative writing teacher.
Writing turned into a game. A game I didn’t need anyone to play with — A game I could play anywhere — A game I never wanted to end — A game I just learned how to play again.
After Highschool and my first real experience as a writer, I started University. Writing continued to be a big part of my daily life, but the narrative changed.
The pieces revolved less around heroes and villains and more around information, facts, and opinions supplied by others or shaped by real-life events.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but a different, far more academic and rational voice was slowly creeping in. For the next four years or so, this more conservative and informative writing style was pretty much my only constant. Sure, my more familiar voice would make the occasional comeback, but “creative space” was scarce at my alma mater. A pretty weird thing, considering that I spent a good chunk of my life trying to master the ins & outs of Marketing and Communications.
Two voices and 2 degrees later; I was standing on a stage blinded by the lights and intimidated by gazing eyes, reading words from a paper I have written, in a voice that wasn’t mine.
Sure, It was an honor to deliver the closing statement on behalf of all graduating students. I was proud to be given such an honorable task, and I didn’t want to let anybody down. Anybody but myself that was — and my closing speech was empowering, candid and motivating some would say — But far from what I really wanted to say reflected that statement.
Three weeks later, I got my first paid writing gig. A ‘graduate” position at an Outdoor Advertising company writing sales copy.
“I’m a writer now,” I thought. “I was so god damn naive,” I think today.
I started to write copy like a man possessed. I was good at it. I liked the job, but I kept drifting away from the writing I wanted to be known for.
I would keep drifting for another five years.
Here’s the deal. I’ve written articles for Magazines In Europe, the US, Asia, and Australia. I’ve written copy for high-end fashion and lifestyle brands. I’ve gotten paid to work on movie scripts and commercials, but I’ve never gotten paid to be a writer up until two years ago.
I forgot how to play the game I was so obsessed with when I first started out and instead accumulated paychecks and voices without taking care of my own. All these years, I was under the impression to have made it as a writer, but the reality was telling a different story.
I was a content creator.
Some of you might argue that a writer and a content creator is one and the same, but for me personally, it comes down to one particular thing that differentiates a content creator from a writer
A content creator doesn’t have a voice* (They do, but most of the time they don’t use it). Of course, they have their own style, and some of them are amazing at what they do, but the environment they operate in is restrictive.
A Content creator’s job is to create content for others. They need to ensure the content they put out hits a particular note and resonates with a specific audience in a voice that represents the medium they write for. Generally speaking, content creators are the missing link or the “communication” between the audience (the receiver) and the medium they write for (the authority).
Writers, on the other hand, are the polar opposite. Writers who use their own voice are the authority, and they utilize a communication medium (again, this can be a platform, blog, brand, publication, etc.) to reach their audience and fans.
It all comes down to personal branding.
For a long time, “my personal brand” was just whoever or whatever put money into my account. I’ve lived by false ideas and somewhat shallow standards. I was so consumed to get paid that I totally forgot about what got me into writing in the first place.
It was the love for the game! So I started to play again. I have consistently been playing for the last 15 months, and it feels liberating!
The more you play, the more you develop your personal voice.
The more you develop your own voice, the more you create a personal brand.
And the more you work on your personal brand, the more people will gravitate to what you have to say and respect you for who you are.
I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself and who I want to be as a writer the last couple of years — but perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s not about the money you make writing for others, but about the value you create for yourself when you start to write in your own voice.
Find it — Experiment with it — Polish it — AND KEEP USING IT, AGAIN AND AGAIN.