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Many of us seek a career in content writing because we love writing. We read quotes like “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” and dream of exciting lives with fulfilling careers — perhaps even some fame and money. But here’s what I’ve learned after two years of pursuing my passion.
Writing As The Dream Job
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
When I was asked this question as a 5-year-old who was swiftly falling in love with the written word (thank you, Enid Blyton!), I knew my answer immediately. What I wanted was to create for someone else the same kind of connection that I experienced when I read something. I wanted to be a writer.
As I grew up, I realised that words seemed to love me almost as much as I loved them. They came to me — easily and naturally. At school, my comfort with English was obvious in the incredible ease with which I articulated myself. I displayed a knack for storytelling and creative writing. My path seemed pretty clear to me.
As is common in the Indian education system, I was steered away from the arts education I so craved, towards the more appropriate subjects of maths and science. I went on to begin a career as a software engineer. But despite how rewarding that career was, a niggling little what-if kept popping up in my mind.
Several years later, the what-if became impossible to ignore, so I quit my cushy IT job and became….a freelance content writer.
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The Challenges Of Being A Content Writer
Starting out as a content writer, I was mostly excited. I was finally living my childhood dream. Friends applauded me for my “bold” and “adventurous” spirit, and though I seldom admitted it out loud, I enjoyed this picture of me immensely. The freelance life had this delicious freedom that seemed so refreshing after my years in the corporate setup.
But then came the reality of life as a freelance content writer.
I found that I missed working with and around other people. Writing can often be a rather lonely profession — especially as a freelancer. I also missed having the structure and discipline of a 9 to 5. And I definitely missed the steady paycheck. The biggest change was in how I started to feel about writing itself.
Art Vs The Audience
Growing up, I’d always thought of writing as an art — it was beautiful, pure, and sacred. But with several of my initial assignments, writing became nothing more than a tool to sell something. It was almost physically painful for me to sell my words to someone so they could sell something else using them.
And then there was that pesky thing I’d never had to think about when I wrote for myself: the audience. For years I’d told myself that I was good at writing. While I might (possibly) have been great at articulating my thoughts, I realised I was not very good at writing what the world wanted to read.
This was a difficult pill for me to swallow.
I thought about giving up several times. This was not in the least like the life I had imagined for myself. But all the while, that persistent little what-if nibbled on my mind, cringing at the idea of giving up on the dream.
There I was — stuck between the career of my dreams and the reality of making a living as a content writer. And I finally began asking myself the question that I should probably have started with. What was I looking to get out of a career in writing?
Content Writing: A Profession
I entered the world of content writing because I identified myself as a writer and I wanted to reinforce that identity. But my journey has led me to realise that my identity as a writer can be independent of my career as a writer.
I am a writer because words are the most profound, most honest medium of expression I know. Like how a painter finds their truth in shapes and colours. How a musician finds euphoria in that perfect permutation of notes. How a dancer experiences an otherworldly connection in the movements of their body. That is what I find in words.
But to build a career in this field, I had to give myself a slightly different identity. I am now learning to view myself not as an artist who finds expression in the perfect combination of words, but rather as a professional who helps others express themselves more effectively and clearly. My value would always be decided by the impact of my words, not by the words themselves.
Making this one change has greatly helped me find my purpose as a writer. I will not lie — some days are still fairly challenging. But on the whole, I believe it’ll help me become a better content writer.
My fellow content writers, is this a struggle you have faced as well? How did you deal with it?
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