Creative writers don’t always get to write. We pursue our passion with our hearts in our throats, hoping we can defend our decision when the time comes, or even better – that one day, when our manuscript gets published, we won’t have to.
While people born with the desire to become doctors or lawyers are encouraged every step of the way, creative writers live in constant doubt: “Am I doing the right thing?” “Should I study something else?” If every budding creative writer was told that they can succeed, and that it’s possible to make a living out of writing, I believe there would be hundreds more creative writers in the world today.
Those who do choose to follow their creative writing passion face adversity. Throughout college, odd jobs, and even family gatherings, I was told I needed a backup plan. When they found out my Master’s degree was in creative writing, they immediately asked, “Are you a journalist?” or “Are you going to teach?” as if creative writer was not a real job. I sat through lectures, “friendly” advice, and well-meant council, all telling me that writing was great and all…but what was I really going to do?
I had never really considered content writing – mostly because I didn’t know it existed. I was under the naive impression that everyone simply wrote their own content, and I couldn’t be a part of that unless I started my own website. When I first read about content writing, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Where was this when strangers scoffed at my creative writing degree? Why wasn’t I told sooner that content writing was a thing?
At first, I wasn’t sure if it was exactly what I was looking for. After all, I read books, not web content. Still, the thought of being able to say that I was paid to write (to really write, not edit or proofread, as was the case with my other jobs) was something I couldn’t pass up. It occurred to me that while the two mediums had their differences, the same thing was at the heart of both – conveying a message to the world in a way that makes them listen. I soon realized that content writing was creative writing, but with the added challenge of being informative.
So, which skills translate? Here are four of them:
As a creative writer, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and start to ramble, or to fill the page with extra words sprinkled in out of habit. Content writing shows you these mistakes, marks them in bright red, and sends your work back to you hacked in pieces (taking little bits of my heart with it, I must admit). Since you have limited space in content writing, and because web readers need concise information quickly, there’s no room to beat around the bush or waste time with filler words.
Creative writing holds itself to the same standard. Every reader deserves clean, concise writing, regardless of the genre. They’re reading for a purpose: to glean a message from the pages. Make each word count and they’re sure to want to listen. Creative writing gives more wiggle room to be enigmatic and philosophical than content writing, but the goal remains the same.
Get your message across in as few words as possible. If a word can be cut, eliminate it. If a phrase can be condensed, shorten it. Web readers can tell when you’re filling the page with empty words to hit a word count.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the amount of voice allowed in content writing. A strong voice shines through no matter what the topic is. When voice is done correctly, it changes a web page from dull info-sheet to charismatic enlightenment. Voice in content writing cannot be understated; it’s what empowers your text and makes it stand out from other blogs or articles giving the same information.
Each piece of content writing calls for its own voice, which is a refreshing change from hearing my own all the time. Mastering someone else’s voice, and even improving upon it, is the lifeblood of content writing. Creative writing does much the same thing: you create characters, and write from their points of view. Content writing is not so different – the only distinction is that the character whose voice you’re using is a real person.
In creative writing, reader engagement is what makes a story take off. J.K Rowling knew how to engage her target audience, and wrote Harry Potter according to what would capture adolescent attention. Her execution was perfect, and she took great lengths to ensure readers would feel a real connection with her characters, their plights, and their fates. Content writing is much to the same end – promoting reader engagement to seal a conversion or increase brand awareness.
Content writing demands a certain level of reader engagement at all times. Otherwise, you risk losing them to the dozens of other search results that crop up on Google. Your content needs to be relevant, intriguing, fresh, and enlightening – a tall order for a single writer working under a time limit. But the more I related it to creative writing, the easier it became. You don’t want someone to put your book down because the energy fizzled out in the middle, just as you don’t want a reader to click away from your page because they lost interest.
To me, this is the all-encompassing tidbit that pumps life into your writing. Creative writing is undoubtedly passionate; it comes from a place of inspiration, emotion, and feeling. Why should content writing be any different? The point of both writing types is to convey a message that is near and dear to your heart. Today’s readers have grown tired of monotonous corporate-speak too often seen on web pages. They want fire. They want to see that the company truly loves what it does, and that it will stop at nothing to satisfy its customers.
Content writing from a creative writer’s perspective has taught me that you don’t have to take a course to write great content – you just have to write from the heart.
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