A mega brand is no place for a free-spirited creative.
When you think of writing as a career, there’s a certain picture that comes to mind. A paper-filled desk, a seat by the window, the sound of the keyboard clacking away in front of you. And in this picture, the writer is almost always alone.
But in reality, a career in writing usually doesn’t mean solo work. Especially if you want to make money doing it.
Sure, the act of writing is a solitary activity. No doubt. But it’s the rest of it that usually involves working with other people. Collaborating with designers. Getting approvals. Presenting to clients. When it comes down to it, professional writing is really a team sport.
And for some, that collaborative environment may be just right. But for others, the more introverted types, myself included, a professional writing career isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Here’s why:
1. Managers know best
It’s hard to find a good boss. Especially for a writer, a manager needs to be more of a mentor than a boss. Writers don’t benefit from micromanaging or taking arbitrary orders. We need someone to guide us, not tell us what to do.
Often, the people managing writers are not writers themselves. At least, this has been the case in 3 out of my 4 professional jobs. These managers don’t understand the writing process and usually give arbitrary feedback and advice that isn’t helpful or useful for furthering our careers.
2. Customers are always right
To make money as a writer, you need to write the things that other people need. There’s no way around it. A customer is paying you for a specific job. You can’t just write whatever you feel like. You need to present work that the customer will like and will be happy to pay for.
When you work for a large company like I do, the customer is the brand. That means I have to write in the brand voice, not my own, and write the things that will grow awareness and make money for the company.
3. Everyone thinks they’re a writer
Professional writers get paid because they are skilled at writing. But not everyone recognizes the value of these skills. There are always going to be people you’re working with that think they know more about writing than you. These people may disagree with a choice you’ve made, force you to make changes you don’t want to make or even rewrite your work because they believe they can do better.
To be successful as a writer, you’re going to have learn to work with others, whether you’re in the corporate world or not. But the problem is, other people can often hinder your ability to do good writing.
I don’t really have a solution to this, except, like much of life, professional writing involves a lot of compromise. Just be careful not to compromise too much of what makes you a good writer.