For a long time, longer than I really should admit, that beautiful bachelor’s was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The idea of graduating and finally exploring the professional world of writing was definitely that proverbial “new chapter,” but I just kind of assumed that I would inherently, automatically even, continue growing and learning as a writer.
I have learned, however, that work is a much different beast than school. The workplace has rules, which are rarely negotiable and can be incredibly stifling. Between endless meetings and navigating office politics, you find that your energy is often spent before you have a chance to get down to the work you love. You feel like the only thing growing is your inbox. Your words are the same size and weight they were the day you were hired.
Office settings are just not places where us creative types flourish. The key to keeping your creative brain from melting into some zombie-like corporate drone is to continue discovering new ideas. You can always learn more. You can always get better. The reason you were hired is because you have something–character, flair, talent– that sets you apart from the rest. It is up to you, and no one else, to keep fueling that special something inside you.
Here are a few strategies that I use to make every assignment, from the shorts to the features, video to social media, as a way to grow and find meaning in my craft:
- A good writer is an energetic reader. Find writers you like and study their style. One of my favorite writers, St. Petersburg Times’ s Lane DeGregory, creates a world so easy to visualize, you feel like you’ve lived next door to her subjects all your life.
- Learn to, as many seasoned writers say, “kill your children.” If your word-smithing is overwhelming or your count is too long, you’ll have to cut out some of those darling little-one liners that add spark, but lack content. This is something I struggle with the most. However, I never delete them. I simply make a word file, a kin to the Island of Misfit Toys, and retire them until I have a better opportunity to give them life.
- Keep with that college student mentality. Buy updated textbooks and read them once a week on your lunch break. Stay up-to-date with new technologies and techniques. Read Mashable every night. Explore different media. If you are a web writer, try to promote content through social media. If you are a print writer, take a photography class. Never, ever stop enhancing your mind and your resume.
- Pull out that red pen and mark up your work. Circle all your verbs and go back and analyze why you used them. Are they active or passive? Then, circle all your adjectives and adverbs. Kill off the unnecessary ones. Unburden your words. Do this weeks or even months after you’ve written the piece and you will have a more objective eye for your own work.
- Dissect your writing process. Do you make outlines, use Venn diagrams or word clusters? Try new techniques and explore the different ways you can create a story.
Every assignment, every story, every photograph or video is an opportunity to refresh your mind and add some vitality to your brain. Not only will you see an improvement in the overall quality of your work, but you’ll rekindle some of that love of discovery back into the doldrums of the real world. Who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire yourself.