Writing for Others Makes You a Better Writer

This morning’s consultation was productive. The client is a prolific entertainment writer getting ready to launch his first site. After months of working on it, he needed a fresh eye.

The website was ambitious - always a good place to start. It followed the theme of what he’d been writing for others. The articles were relevant, smart, and to the point, but they could have appeared anywhere. I asked what he wanted to accomplish. He said to generate the income he’d been generating for others for himself. Are you interested in the subject? I asked. Ugh, no! he exclaimed.

So, I shared an experience.

Early in my writing career, I was hired to create content for a publisher with numerous online beauty magazines. The production schedule was beyond demanding. The writing was grueling, a total bore. (How many ways can you describe a blue dress?) But I’d needed the money. And I was grateful for the work.

At the end of every day, stiff-shouldered and brain-dead, I’d closed the laptop, too tired to get to my own writing. The next morning, when I sat down at the computer, there was another blue dress or beauty product. No matter how much material I churned out, the publisher felt it was never enough. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

I fed the beast for about a year, churning out copy to keep the paychecks coming. And then it dawned on me - I was in boot camp. I'd learned how to write copious copy for SEO google algorithms and meet demanding deadlines for an ungrateful publisher, and that process had made me a better, stronger writer.

Maybe learning to write about things for which we have no passion frees us to learn to write better?

I decided to start my own beauty site – get it up on twitter, FB and YouTube. Even write a series of e-books. My excitement turned to fatigue before I'd published the first article.

I have no passion for beauty products. I can’t stand women’s magazines. My best friend usually does my clothes shopping. Other than the obvious reason, cash, why would I spend my days creating something I did not care about?

I asked my client the same question. What did he care enough to research and write about on a daily basis?

A window opened in the conversation. He did have a love for books of a specific era. The reason for this love led to a story about a grandfather, who was by far the most interesting character I’d happened upon in years.

And that’s how we found it. A clear voice and a direction fueled by a passion that could expand beyond a site into a community to create a fresh, new brand.

Using the knowledge and skills acquired writing and making money for others, my client can now create a better living writing about a topic that he loves.

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