by Kate M. Colby
As you may know, by day I am a copywriter at a wine marketing company. Essentially, I write product descriptions, tasting notes, and catalog spreads about wine. Oh, and I do get to sample my fair share, too!
Now, a lot of writers say that, if you must have a day job, it shouldn’t be related to writing. I get that. Mentally, there are some days where I feel as if I have no more words to give the world. Physically — now this is where the real toll hits. Some days, I’m so sore from sitting at a desk for hours, and my fingers are so tired that they barely want to move (I’m just counting down the days until carpal tunnel syndrome really hits. I know it’s coming.). On those days, writing fiction after work is literally painful.
But, despite those few negatives, I’ve actually found that copywriting has greatly benefited my fiction. In case you’re thinking about doing double duty in the writing field (I’m looking at you, fellow English majors!), here are some ways that being a professional writer may help you with your creative writing.
Learning how to handle criticism
Nearly every word I write must be reviewed by someone else in my department — at the very least just to check for typos. After receiving daily critiques on my copywriting, it’s been much easier to handle my editor’s feedback on my fiction.
Separating myself from my writing
Along those same lines, being a copywriter has helped me separate myself from my writing. At my day job, everything I write is owned by the company. Since nothing is mine, it’s simple to detach myself from the work emotionally. I’ve been able to apply this skill to my fiction, and it’s helped me view my work more objectively at an earlier stage in the writing process (though, fiction is still my baby!).
Even the most seasoned writer can use the occasional brush up on grammar. As a copywriter, I’m constantly learning (or relearning) the rules of writing and practicing my editing skills on my and my coworkers’ pieces. I’ve also had to learn AP (Associated Press) style, which has broadened my technical knowledge, too.
Better copywriting for my fiction business
I’m still no expert copywriter — not by a long shot! But the basic skills of the trade have helped me write better blog posts, emails, and even book reviews. I’m learning, one step at a time, how to sell wine, and in the process, I’m gaining valuable strategies for how to sell more books. It’s a win-win!
At work, it doesn’t matter if I’m in the mood to write or not. If there’s a deadline, I have to meet it. This self-discipline has carried over to my fiction writing. Now, instead of allowing myself to ignore my self-imposed deadlines, I’m regularly keeping them.
Exploring new topics and cultures
Right now, I can’t travel around the world. But every day, as I write about new wines, I also get to research their countries of origin, the local cuisine, the climate, etc. Exposing myself to a whole new aspect of my culture and seeing how it translates in other nations has been incredibly inspiring and often generates fun fiction ideas.
Refining my passions and goals
I love my job. I work with wonderful, talented people, am able to sample some of the best wines in the world, and genuinely enjoy going to work everyday. Being a professional writer is a great source of pride for me and has reaffirmed that writing is my calling in life.
That being said, it has also reaffirmed that fiction is my true love and that going independent was the right choice for me and the author side of my career. Sometimes it takes doing something almost perfect to realize what is truly perfect for you.
As you can see, being a professional writer won’t destroy your fiction writing ambitions. In fact, it can often be a huge benefit to them. That being said, I’ll leave you with a few words of advice.
If you are a writer by day and an author by night, I recommend:
A) making time for your health and breaking the sedentary cycle whenever possible
B) keeping the two forms of writing entirely separate in your life
C) making sure that you have other hobbies or opportunities that allow you to take a break from writing and go out and live a little!
Guest post contributed by Kate M. Colby. Kate is a writer of multi-genre fiction and creative nonfiction as well as a writing-craft blogger. Kate graduated summa cum laude from Baker University with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Sociology.