Thoughts On Writing

taking the mystery out of writing

I love everything about conferences: learning, networking, and people-watching (post-conference drinking is a great addition, too). I presented at a few conferences over my academic career, my first being at the National Undergraduate Literature Conference (NULC) in Ogden, Utah, where I gave a talk on “Anti-heroics in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men.” I have also presented at several Writing Center conferences on a myriad of topics, ranging from the pedagogy of online writing consulting to incorporating elements of creative writing workshops into consulting sessions.

This marked my first year attending the Content Marketing World Conference (CMWC), and I can easily say that it was one of the best I’ve ever been to. Every session provided me with valuable insights into internal and external marketing, but also allowed me to dissect my own personal writing more deeply than I ever had.

The keynote speaker for CMWC was Tina Fey, someone who I’d never expected—or necessarily wanted—to see. Let’s just get this out of the way: she was great. She was an engaging speaker with an inspiring story and personable attitude toward her career. She spoke quite a bit about her writing process and her success as a director, writer, producer, and actor, and (as mentioned in previous posts) a lot of it comes down to #JustF***ingDoingIt™.

However, CMWC really got me thinking about audience and objective. While I believe strongly in the power of literature and storytelling, I also find myself (a little more often than I’d like to admit) asking: “Who the hell cares?” Sure, I feel a personal connection to my characters, settings, and sometimes-a-little-too-subtle-and-obnoxiously-cryptic narratives, but will the audience feel that same connection? Will they understand the objective of my story, or be able to interpret a purpose on their own?

What I think I’m trying to say is that conferences force us to reconcile that blurry division between personal and professional writing.

Of course there are differences between the two—because you can damn well bet that a technical writer isn’t going to give his one-act play the same monotonous tone as the automotive manual he’s working on; similarly, he’s not about to pepper an automotive manual with flowery words and stage directions—but keeping an open mind is absolutely essential if you want to make progress in your own writing.

For example: Why not apply the strategy of creating a documentary-style marketing campaign to a personal project, especially if that strategy has proven successful?

Writers (myself included) have a tendency to get distracted with the stories they want to tell, and end up writing, and writing, and writing, and end up altogether neglecting their objectives and audiences. Whether we like it or not, those two things are important because they give us they focus and determination we need to follow through.

I mean, if we don’t know who we’re marketing our stories to, who will?

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