Monday, December 30, 2013

I Appear to Be Getting Better at All This

Ghostwriting for a living has been interesting to say the least. I know for a fact that this isn't what I imagined myself doing when I first thought: "Hey, I wonder if I could get people to pay me to write stuff". However, I'd be lying if I said the experience hasn't brought anything beyond a paycheck to my life or taught me anything about myself.

I've learned about a lot of different subjects that I know I wouldn't even have considered if someone hadn't made me write about them for money at one point or another. I've also developed facets to my skill set as a writer that I know I wouldn't have if I'd just been allowed to stick with the creative writing and blogging I'd always been more comfortable with.

This past year has been especially interesting in regards to how my career as a writer has been developing though. Thanks to a lot of Google's recent updates -- Panda and Penguin in particular -- it's become a lot harder to actually get content to rank. The days where you could just strategically plant a few keywords in a piece of writing that honestly isn't all that good and actually get away with it are over with. These days, Google can actually tell if something's well-written and valuable... and accomplishing that is about a lot more than keywords. Your ability to get social media users to share what you post is becoming increasingly important as well.

In other words, you can no longer cut corners when it comes to the content writers you choose if you want to succeed with what you're doing. They need to be really good technically, but they need to know how to write things people actually want to read as well. That's been bad news for a lot of the mediocre or low-end writers out there, but good for me. Even when it comes to the better writers out there, a lot of them have the technical part covered, but couldn't be truly creative or engaging if you put guns to their heads. Creative, articulate, experienced writers like myself are in high demand right now as a result and clients that are serious about their businesses are willing to pay us good money for our services. I've been able to raise my prices considerably as a result this year, so I've been earning money that I feel is a lot closer to what I deserve to be making. That's done wonders for my attitude about copywriting and content writing in general, especially when it comes to doing it on a long-term basis.

I've been having to reassess how I feel about certain boundaries that were never really problems before though. Attracting higher caliber clients that are capable of appreciating everything I bring to the table as a writer has meant that more people have been wanting me to produce "real writing" on their behalf. What people want almost always requires me to tap into my natural creativity. I'm still deciding how I feel about that, because that's not the paradise it probably sounds like. In some cases, that new turn of events has been wonderful. I've had the opportunity to do things like develop menu copy for restaurants and put together creative ad campaigns for really big brands. I could totally do things like that all day long and be a happy camper.

In other cases, I was actually left feeling a little violated. For instance, one client had me write a philosophy article that was actually based on my own ideas about a few things. Then he used it to secure himself a high-paying position at a major college, of course claiming the ideas as his own. I wonder what his superiors would think if they knew those theories belonged to some nobody California writer with electric red hair and no real education to speak of. Another client took something I wrote and got it published in the New York Times under her own name and has been getting a lot of praise for it. I... can -- at this point -- only dream of what it feels like to be published in the New York Times under my own name, so yeah.

I'm currently in the process of redrawing some boundaries in regards to things like that. I've definitely decided that anything I have to offer that's uniquely mine just isn't for sale -- stories, thoughts, philosophies, theories, experiences... anything like that. I don't mind letting clients take credit for writing I do that's based on their own ideas and whatnot, but I do have a problem with them taking credit for anything I consider to be a part of me or my own thought process. Plus... not gonna lie -- it hurt to see that clients were able to accomplish things with my writing and ideas that I personally haven't been able to. Getting people to take me seriously as a person has been a challenge my whole life. It sucked to kind of get proof that it's not my ideas and ability that are the problem. They just don't come in a respectable enough package to suit people.

I guess if nothing else, I get to know something interesting about myself beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt though. I know for a fact now that I'm smart enough and that my ideas are good enough to get a resounding thumbs up from authorities at major universities. I also know that my writing is good enough to be published in major publications like the Times. That means that my challenge is kind of what it's always been to varying degrees in my life. I don't look like a New York Times journalist... and I don't really sound like one or have the background you'd probably associate with one either. I probably never will, but I suppose that gives me a new challenge to tackle for 2014.