I’ve spent my career as a content creator, starting as a technical writer, then as a freelancer, and currently in marketing. Time has given me a thick skin, lessons learned, and the ability to separate my passion for writing from the realities of corporate America.
Here are some things I’ve come to peace with during my career as a content creator:
1. Writing is subjective
One thing I came to peace with early on as a writer and content creator is that writing quality is subjective. Every organization and sometimes even managers inside an organization have their own concept of what’s quality writing.
I’ve seen continuous improvement as the best way to proceed as a writer, and I always encourage non-writers I coach and mentor to adopt the same attitude.
2. Everybody’s a critic. Not every critic can do the work
Content creators, especially those working in a corporate HQ, attract every sort of critic to their work. Granted, I got some valuable feedback from subject matter experts during my time in corporate. I also learned countless how the law of diminishing returns could hobble content development and drain the morale of writers and subject matter experts
I think Meeting Boy captures these types of critics best:
Sorry, no, you don’t get to make major changes 30 minutes before the deadline. You’ve had 6 weeks to bring this up.
My favorite is the critics who rip apart a document as part of the battle of relevance to show the author and the rest of the team they’re in charge. Doubly so, if they delay document delivery to do their own version of the document full of spelling, grammatical, and logic mistakes.
3. Content reviews are sloppy by nature
Reviewing technical content isn’t taught anymore. Nor is it an innate talent for most people. While I do my best to coach technical reviewers on how to be effective, the review cycle is often a time when progress goes astray. Over the years, I’ve become more of a proponent of iterating on content because the average corporate content must hit deadlines, so being a perfectionist can become a project blocker.
4. More managers don’t make things better
Once in a previous job, I ended up on two project teams where the people with the title VP, director, or manager outnumbered those who could do the work. In one case, managers jockeyed for positions. The project lead would give a directive, and then another manager gave a directive counter to the first one. One of the VPs also fancied themselves a writer and storyteller. That translated into why say something in 100 words when you can use 500 words.
5. The LinkedIn algorithm
I’ve committed to the LinkedIn platform over the years because I’ve gotten opportunities from it. Publishing articles on the platform made sense as a potential publishing platform for me when LinkedIn first opened the feature to me. The reality is I rarely got traction from readers when publishing articles to the platform versus when I linked to my articles on Medium or another site.
Today, I remain a champion of the LinkedIn platform because it has helped me find employment in the past. However, I’m no champion of publishing articles on the platform.
Somewhere along the way, I’m sure I had some negative experiences with SEO and content. However, over the past year or two, I’ve come around about my attitudes about SEO, and now I’m at peace with it as part of the content creation and publishing process.
7. Talking, talking, and talking isn’t the same as delivering for a customer
During a job interview, I explained that I stayed an individual contributor because I still enjoyed doing the work and having my fingers on the keyboard. I didn’t want to say that I can’t stand unnecessary meetings that I found to be abundant inside a corporate HQ. I worked with people who wouldn’t let a meeting go to waste.
In a past job, I was on a call with a colleague discussing a project, and it all started to sound familiar. I reached over to grab a notebook to start taking notes. When I opened the notebook, I saw notes from the same call about a month before. We were having the same meeting.
So much talking, I came to find, led to only more talking and talking. The worst part is that the people doing the talking often blather nothing at all, and sometimes they were executives. Robert Sutton summed it up best in his book, Good Boss, Bad Boss.
The fact that I still love writing, even during the ups and downs of my career, is how I came to peace with these things. I continue to love the art of creation.
Will Kelly is a product marketer and writer focused on DevOps and the cloud. His technology interests include enterprise mobility, collaboration tools, and remote work. He has written for TechTarget, Opensource.com, InfoQ, and others. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.