Would you rather be an excellent singer or a superb writer?
Today I checked the results: More than half (55 percent) the respondents want to be superior wordsmiths.
Naturally I wish the percentage had been a little higher. But as a writer and a writing coach, I’m glad to see that scribbling edged out singing.
I’m also curious as to why.
Maybe it’s because writing is so useful at work (or during the employment search). Obviously not every job requires writing, but in many fields the ability to communicate clearly and convincingly gives you a leg up on the workplace ladder.
And in jobs that require non-written interaction? Being able to write well can help you interact effectively with others. Instead of mumbling, “Okay, time to do this (unpleasant or physically exhausting task),” you’ll be able to give clear directions, delegate as needed and make people feel like colleagues rather than peons.
This is especially important if you’re explaining how to do something. When I got a job at a glass factory the training was terrible: run-on sentences peppered with “uhs” and “ums,” all delivered in a voice so low and monotonous that I struggled to stay awake. Her drone sent me into the zone.
Writing is also useful in volunteer gigs. If you’re helping out at the no-kill shelter you could produce website or newspaper copy that reads like this:
“Eddie is a 3-year-old chihuahua. He loves to go for walks. The best home would be one without children or other dogs.”
Snore. Whereas the real-life ad from The Humane Society Silicon Valley was written with irresistible style and wound up going viral. An excerpt:
“While Eddie The Terrible has never actually attacked another dog, he’s made it abundantly clear that he hasn’t ruled out the possibility. He goes from zero to Cujo in .05 seconds when he sees another dog on leash.
“If you’re looking for a floor-sleeping, speed bump of a dog that minds his own business, strike Eddie clean off your list. Eddie demands interaction.
“He’s super loyal, easy in the house and a lot of fun, but he’s a little rough around the edges. Actually he’s kind of a jerk. But he’s a jerk we believe in. We’re not expecting you to want to meet him but if you must, we really can’t deter you.”
You guessed it: Eddie found a home. The cleverly written bio turned the dreadful doggie into a quirky character people wanted to meet.
A message to share
And of course some people want to be superb writers because they have something to say. “I’m a writer” used to mean that you were pecking away at the Great American Novel or angsting your way through poems in bars or coffeehouses.
These days it’s just as likely to mean that you’ve got a personal blog or that you write for pay for other people’s websites. Or maybe you’ve got a YouTube channel that mixes humor, instruction or inspiration with video.
It could also simply mean, “I like to write.” For a time my mother produced short pieces for the church bulletin. This wasn’t a paid position, but hearing parishioners say “I really liked your article” filled her with happiness.
If she hadn’t died far too young, Mom might have found her voice through blogging. She loved to sing, too, but I think she considered writing more important.
No matter how sweet our voices, the fact is that very, very few of us are going to be able to make any money – let alone earn a living – through song.
But more and more paid writing opportunities open up all the time. Not all of them pay very well, and you shouldn’t allow yourself to be exploited for long – but everyone has to start somewhere. Take some $25 gigs to get the clips, and then start asking for more.
In my Write A Blog People Will Read online course, I include a list of some reputable places to look for paying work. These include:
That link to WABPWR gives you a 25 percent discount. If you wonder whether it’s really for you, e-mail me at Contact (at) WriteABlogPeopleWillRead (dot) com. I’d be happy to answer any questions and also to send a sample chapter or two so you can get some idea of how the course works (and how it could help).
Even if you can’t afford to spend any money on your vocation right now – even if it’s still an avocation – I urge you to keep writing. Make every piece your best work, whether or not anyone is reading your blog. Don’t publish pieces unless they, well, sing.
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