I think every writer goes through an existential crisis (or 50) in their lifetime, and at least one of those crises is brought on by another article with the title, “Publishing is Dead.”
All through high school and college, I was inundated with advice to choose a career in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM)-related field. And though my passion for writing was evident, the attitudes of my teachers suggested my passion would soon enough turn into failure.
But, because I’m a stubborn and spiteful person, I pursued writing anyway.
That’s not to say that my confidence didn’t falter in college. When I would hear someone call publishing “a dying industry,” I’d panic and think, “Oh my god, what am I going to do with my life.” So of course, within my first year, I sat down with an advisor to talk about pursuing a double major. One in english, like I wanted, and one that was more career-viable.
I settled on a minor in marketing and felt safe in my future as a young professional.
I’ve since figured out that my minor in marketing isn’t worth as much as I thought on paper. However, the knowledge and experience it provided did help me get most of the jobs I’ve had since graduating.
It’s also given me a profound sense of confidence in my career choice as a writer.
Because everything I did (and still do) involved writing.
While academia is an extreme case, I learned that any and every subject in college involved some level of writing.
As a tutor at the university writing center, I often worked with STEM students who had to write lab reports or research papers, but didn’t have the skills to even know where to start. And while I couldn’t fathom how they could spend hours on one equation, they couldn’t fathom how I could spend hours on one piece of writing.
In my marketing classes, I became somewhat of a celebrity. Every business major wanted me on their team, because I could write a killer marketing plan. I was even in a group that did all the research for me just so they wouldn’t have to actually write anything.
And when I got out of college, I found tons of businesses who needed people just to write for them. They were willing to hire someone just to write their 30-word product descriptions.
It was my exposure to the field of marketing that made me realize how invaluable good writing is, and how hireable a good writer can be.
My English degree was no longer useless — it was the most useful tool I had.
Heard that phrase before? As annoying as it is to hear from literally everyone in the online business world, it’s a universal truth in entrepreneurship.
You need good content to succeed.
You need a lot of good content to succeed.
So many businesses these days are branching out into multiple content mediums. Entrepreneurs have their blogs, which link to their podcasts, which link to their YouTube channels, which link to their Instagrams, Facebooks, and Twitters, which link back to their blogs.
It’s a never-ending supply of content intended to capture an audience and generate customers.
And at the center of that content spiral is writing and storytelling.
But Erika — how can something like Instagram or YouTube be writing? Those are visual mediums!
Without going into great detail about theories on the creation of language, I insist that any form of content or entertainment you’ve ever consumed in your lifetime has been “written.” While writing is typically thought of as putting pen to paper, in the broader sense writing is storytelling. When you consume visual content, a storyteller had to put it together in their head and then create the fixed form you see on your screen.
Consider some of history’s most famous paintings.
The Last Supper depicts the story of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. In order for that painting to exist, the story of Jesus’ last supper had to exist in the Bible.
The Birth of Venus is about exactly that, the birth of the goddess Venus. Surely Botticelli had a theory on why Venus emerged out of the ocean in a sea shell — whether he came up with it on his own or whether the story was passed down to him.
Almost every form of visual art has a story behind it, and stories are written, whether in your head or on paper.
The same goes for less “traditionally” creative content, like a Vine or a Meme. With Vines, the creator had six seconds for their content. Some of the most popular vines had stories behind them, and needed writing before they could ever grace the now-deceased app.
A Meme definitely shows the need for writing, as a part of its humor and appeal has to do with the story that has been created behind it.
What do you think of when you see this Gif?
Many internet-savvy folks have used this Gif as a reaction to something they’ve read or seen. It’s even been edited so that it pertains to the different struggles of millennials. Like solving a difficult equation.
The two visuals (and their evolution from Soap Opera to Gif to equation-solving photo) tell a story AND have a story for why they exist. Just like any other kind of content.
Everything you do for your business, aside from accounting and a few other tasks, will require decent writing. And decent won’t get you to the top of Google’s search results page.
The blogs you publish have to be clear, and the social media posts have to be catchy.
Furthermore, many businesses are turning to different mediums for content creation that don’t involve publishing articles regularly.
Podcasts, videos, and infographics are popular forms of content that help promote your business and garner an audience. And they’re pretty successful, too.
But you still need to know how to write to record a podcast, make a video, or design an infographic.
Listen to your favorite podcast. Does it sound like they are just winging it?
Podcast scripting is a fundamental step in creating a successful podcast. Even if you use the podcast for interviews or fire-side chats, you still need to come up with topics and questions for your guests, that you can use to carry the conversation in case it dies. Plus, all good podcasts have intros that catch the listener’s attention. Those intros need to be written and rewritten until they are ready for recording.
Video creation is no different.
If the videos you plan to create are anything other than a stream-of-consciousness vlog, you’re going to need a script to follow.
It doesn’t have to be an Oscar-worthy screenplay, it just has to be cohesive and helpful for filming. Tell a story that matches your voice and keeps your objective at the center. If your storytelling isn’t tight, you’ll have to sort through a lot of muck during editing.
Writing is especially important for infographics, because believe it or not, most infographics contain a fair amount of text.
Would you publish an infographic filled with spelling errors and poor grammar? While a great design matters for a successful infographic, so does polished text.
You’ll need to draft short explanations or titles for the different parts of your infographic, fit it to the visual, and of course, have it proofed before it goes out into the world.
Think of the horror upon publishing your infographic when you see your brand name is spelled completely wrong.
Depending on your brand, you’re going to develop a unique voice and style that you use for your content. Not everyone has to sound like Hemingway.
The key to writing good content for any medium is having a solid plan. Whether that plan includes a few notes scribbled onto a piece of paper, a rough outline, or a full-blown script, you’ll need to know how to write in order to create it all.
Here are a few things you’ll need to write/plan for when creating in some common mediums:
Besides actually writing the thing, you’ll have to consider the all important Quality Assurance step. Has someone reviewed your content before you publish it?
Has your writing been proofread? Has someone listened to your podcast with a critical ear? Are you calling your gown a “sequinsed dress” instead of a sequin dress?
No matter what kind of content you’re putting out into the world, make sure you get a second set of eyes or ears to make sure there are no errors or incorrect information. As crazy as it may sound, mistakes can actually lose you audience members.
Two years post-college, I finally stopped feeling the need to argue with people who laughed off my English degree as pointless.
I have a job that lets me do what I love and pays me for it. I’m pretty sure that makes my degree far from pointless.
Don’t get me wrong, I do still get the occasional fear that I will one day be replaced by a robot. But if a robot can replace me as a writer, then they’ve probably taken over the world and will eradicate us soon after…. Kidding! Maybe.
So if you’re a writer who is worried about job prospects, don’t be! Behind everything you’ve ever read, heard, watched, or looked at, there is a writer typing away and strategizing the best way to phrase things.
And if you’re a business owner who needs help with content creation, maybe hire one of us to help you?
After all, we went to school for it.
Erika Rasso graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in English and marketing and is currently working on her MFA in Screenwriting at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has worked as a writing consultant, an editor for a literary journal, and an editor for an academic journal. In her free time, Erika enjoys writing short stories and screenplays (though mostly she just watches WAY too many shows on Netflix). She is the Director of Production for Craft Your Content.