Telling a Compelling Story: Why I Write
I've always loved words. I learned to read when I was very young, and the more I read, the more I wanted to read - and the more I wanted to write. Stories have the power to evoke powerful emotions, and that power lies not just in the story itself, but in how the story is told. Words matter. Sounds matter. Phrasing matters. And when you're reading (vs. listening), the structure matters even more: what's forgivable in spoken language becomes a glaring distraction in the written word.
When I told my parents that I was embarking on a freelance writing career, neither of them were surprised. This gem was in one of their many photo albums: me, at age 2, pecking away at the typewriter (no matter that there was no paper):
"I've always thought of you as being a writer," said my father. "We still have the stories that you wrote back when you were in school - and the book of poetry, too." My high school senior class project was poetry writing. At the end of the semester I produced a slim volume of poems, complete with my own cover art. I also kept a diary/journal, full of cryptic notes (apparently I was afraid that someone might find and read it) and teenaged angst. I was a staff writer for our high school newspaper, something I hadn't remembered until flipping through my old yearbook (that's me, front and center). Then I went on to be an English major in college.
"Well, writing has always been your favorite part of your [marketing] jobs, right?" my mother said. My decision made perfect sense to her. But I knew I'd have to explain it to people who didn't know me as well, especially potential clients who might see all the marketing roles on my résumé and be skeptical about the writing - and editing - skills of someone who hadn't previously had an official writer title.
After graduation, I fell into a career in event management (starting with a temp job that turned into a full-time position). I was responsible for a lot of process development and project management, but the communications aspect of the job was what I enjoyed the most. I wrote detailed pre-show memos and post-show wrap up reports. I created intranet content to share all the information staff could possibly ever need about the events I was managing. I wrote glorious emails communicating all this information. It was my attempt to tell the story of the event and why it was important, to get more people to care.
Early on in my career I realized that many people don't read (at best, they skim), so I had to revise much of my content into more concise formats. At first that was painful, but eventually it became second nature to create different versions of content to best fit the needs of the people who were ultimately consuming it (although PowerPoint presentations have always been the bane of my existence where marketing is concerned). But long-form writing remained my preferred medium.
In 2010, I volunteered to take on some new (additional) responsibilities at the company I was employed by at that time - launching what was then called "web 2.0" or "next-gen" marketing, now known as social media marketing. I created a blog site, corporate Twitter handles, Facebook pages, and LinkedIn groups, and was one of the first voices of the brand as well as being the face/voice of the corporate events team. That turned into a springboard for my next marketing role, at a startup, which then morphed into solution and product marketing roles after that company was acquired by a much larger organization. The common thread across all of these roles was communications, both verbal and written.
While I love strategy work, creating campaigns, and managing projects, writing has always has been the part of marketing that brings me the most joy. I've always been envious of colleagues and friends who can think in pictures, and create those beautiful slide decks that can tell a story all on their own. But you need an article written? Fun! A datasheet? Sure! A blog post? No problem! Email copy? Done! My mother was right: my favorite work days as a product marketer were the days I could block off 8 hours of uninterrupted time (a rarity in a conference-call laden schedule) to just write.
I love crafting stories that will hopefully resonate with my audience, and make them want more. But the bottom line is that writing makes me happy. And that's why I write.