Opportunity to Grow as a Writer

One of the things I like about writing for Textbroker is the opportunity to grow as a writer. You get instructions on what someone wants written. Some of your work will be rated by Textbroker. Some of it may be rated by clients. If you work on a team, teams have editors and extensive instructions that get updated periodically.

Writers often struggle to get good feedback. For years, my oldest son was my primary source of good editorial feedback outside of Textbroker. In recent months, there's been one other person willing and able to critique my writing to help me grow as a writer.

Most people have no idea how to critique your writing in a way that helps you develop your craft. They think you want pats on the head and will take it super personally if they do anything else. Often, if they do give you criticism, it's essentially designed to be personally hurtful and does little or nothing to help you develop your craft.

My son is good at saying "I know you well enough that I think I know what you are trying to say and this doesn't say that." And then he gives me his thoughts on what I need to work on to convey what I'm trying to express.

So there is feedback that happens with writing for Textbroker and that's huge. One piece of feedback is simply having your article accepted. That says "You adequately followed my instructions and I'm willing to pay you for your work."

Early on, I got more revision requests than I typically get these days. That's another form of feedback and getting it right on the first try more consistently is an indicator of growth as a writer.

One of the most memorable growth experiences I've had as a writer was working on a team project for a travel site. I had probably already written a dozen or more pieces describing various places in accordance with the instructions and it was getting down to the dregs of assignments. 

The only articles left were still available because they were descriptions of places that were challenging to write about, so most people didn't want to write them. I probably wrote another half dozen pieces about tiny communities where it was hard to come up with enough real information to meet the word count without filler. 

One was a town of about a hundred people in Alaska. Another was a tiny community in Canada. At least two were tiny islands.

One of the very last pieces I wrote was about a city in a war zone. The airport had recently reopened, but there wasn't much available in the area because so much had been destroyed during the war.

You can't say anything negative in a piece like this. You obviously can't say anything like "Hello! It's in a war zone! Why would you travel here?"

But you also can't say anything akin to "Well, it used to be a vibrant city with a rich nightlife, but this is all that's left since it got bombed out." And it can be hard to mentally move that out of your way while trying to write.

But having just written several pieces about very small communities that never had very much in the way of built environment, it was much easier to just list what was there without commenting on all that it had lost.  It was surprisingly easy to talk about what it did have to offer without injecting editorial opinion either explicitly or implicitly. 

Let's be blunt here: It's the implicit editorial stuff that's hard to root out. The explicit gaffs are much easier to edit out than the ugly subtext.

That really sharpened my mind and clarified something for me that I still struggle to express. It helped me focus on the thing I desire to communicate and helped me figure out how to just not mention things I really don't want to talk about.

Very often, people spend a lot of time trying to say "I don't want it to be about X." And they never do get around to stating the thing they do want to focus on.

Learning to just talk about the thing you want to call attention to is sort of like mental white space. It's like putting an art piece on a plain pedestal in a white room and having nothing else in that room.

No matter how small that art piece, it's what people will look at if there's nothing competing with it visually. It will be their entire focus. 

One of the hardest things to understand about good writing is that it is shaped at least as much by what you choose to not say. Sometimes, what not to say is the most important part of the assignment.


Celeste said…
I love this, thank you. The artwork-in-an-empty-room imagery is particularly memorable – hopefully it will come to mind next time I’m blogging. Usually each idea I have reminds me of three other things I want to write about until I have enough material for a dozen blog posts. So I think it will be helpful to have “deciding what not to say” as a goal.