Growing up, I was one of those weird kids who read the thesaurus for fun. I liked knowing different words for things, to be able to say the same thing in a number of diverse ways, or to be able to use a similar word to change the nuance of a meaning. As a student, I was one of the very few in class who got all charged up when the teacher assigned an essay or research paper. In my spare time in 5th and 6th grades, I began to write stories. Bad stories, to be sure, but I was learning to play around with sentence structure and plot and tension and all those other things that make reading enjoyable. This was a pattern I kept up right through my college years, where I majored in English because literature and writing were the things I understood and loved most of all.
I hadn’t the vaguest sense of what to do with myself once I graduated college, beyond “get a job, any job” and so that’s what I did. I was just lucky enough to land in a place where my talents were recognized – an ad agency. My boss needed someone who could write, because frankly he couldn’t write his way out of a wet paper sack. And for 20 years that’s what I did – I wrote. Oh, I did other things, too, and that’s been helpful (or at least has paid the bills) but my main identity has been writing.
When that portion of my career (and I call it that because that’s what it is) was over I really despaired of ever finding another good fit like that again. When you live in a podunk market you don’t have a lot of opportunity to be gainfully employed as a writer without also having to be something else. The writer part of it tends to be a smaller piece of the pie than you’d really like.
As luck would have it, I managed to find another spot where my ability as a writer has some value. It’s a slow boat, yes, because heretofore they haven’t had anyone on staff dedicated to writing, and I’m there on the slimmest of margins: I write content for the company blog. That’s where it started, really, and it does seem that my boss wants to utilize my talents in other areas because he is starting shop me around as a content creator for other websites.
My new position is with a software developer, you see, and these guys tend to be hard-core code and numbers kind of guys. I might be a bit like an exotic flower to them. But I like it, and I like them, particularly since they don’t require me to be particularly gregarious. Everyone pretty much sits shyly in their own cube and crunches code. I like that about them. It feeds my solitary tendencies.
(Sidebar: I seem to like my own company probably just a little too much.)
My greatest pleasure in this position is when they give me a handful of topics and a broad latitude and then leave me alone with it all. I’m filling up my little portion of the company drive with lots of content. Those 20 years writing ad copy have been particularly helpful because I recognize that the company blog is no more than a sales tool, a marketing piece, a branding opportunity. It’s just more of the same as I’ve been doing for 20 years.
And I’m getting paid for it. Woot!