When I finished my undergraduate degree I was left with no idea what to do next.
I have always liked creative writing so someone recommended to me that I take some courses at my local University in their continuing studies program and figure out where to go from there.
And that is exactly what I did.
I took three courses in a creative writing certificate before I decided that being creative is something I wanted to do for a career.
I didn’t yet know what that was going to be but someone else posed the question to me, “what about copywriting?”
Having no clue what that really meant, I did some research and found out that yes indeed it was a very creative path to take. So I embarked on my next round of education at a local college.
Apply Your Skills To The Business World
The program I signed up for was Advertising and Copywriting and I was set to learn the gambit from industry professionals.
Even though ‘copywriting’ is still writing, it’s nothing like what I had been previously doing. My past only consisted of short stories and essays for school, writing catching headlines and taglines was going to be brand new for me.
I’d like to say that I took to it like a duck to water but that wasn’t the case whatsoever. It was difficult and it took some time before I got comfortable (like half way into the program).
But one very important thing I learned right away is that if you don’t have the ability to implement your ideas than you are going to waste a lot of time trying and failing. And what abilities am I talking about specifically?
Learn Industry Standard Programs
The skills you need to create ads or anything else for that matter belongs almost solely to Adobe. Sure there are things like Canva which do a good job, but the industry demands you know Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign.
I had a great computer skills teacher who went through each of those programs and taught us the ropes. I can’t express how valuable those skills have become in my working life as often I’ve had to use them.
Further if you are doing anything creative for a job, from social media, to SEO content, and advertising copywriting, applications will often demand you have these skills at atleast an intermediate level.
So when I was in my copywriting program things were moving very quickly. We usually would cover something once then move on. Because time was a significant factor I had to spend my weekends brushing up on my creative computer skills.
For this, Youtube became my friend. There are many, many, great Adobe tuturials on the platform and I would spend my saturdays just playing around with different tools and going over what I learned the week before.
The program was pretty all incompassing so my dream of finishing some short stories during my studies was put to rest, at least for the time being.
Work For Free To Learn
It was an important part of the program that you had to do an internship.
A friend offered me a spot where they work and I started my first role in the business world.
The job was largely social media based and being someone who didn’t really think of themselves as socially savy I had to learn, once again, a new platform of being creative.
Now I know some of you reading this are going, “Social media, how is that creative?”
Well, it has to do with communicating brand values and growing an audience. You have to make ‘nice’ words or you’ll essentially be pissing into the wind. The better quality the text in the post or tweet or whatever and the greater the return on your investment (hashtags are also very important).
Have Your Eye On The Bottom Line
Now I’ve just broached a topic that is all consuming to when a creative person crosses over from hobbyist to professional, and that is ROI (return on investment).
I learned quickly that in the work world everyone has to prove their worth and fast.
I learned much about writing for the web when I was at that position and it has continued to service me professionally and personally to this day.
- First thing, back when Twitter had 140 character limits you had to be very succint with your words, so short and sweet became my code of conduct at the keyboard.
- Second, depending on the platform, you must use hashtags. Hashtags are how people find your content. They are searchable and congregate certain information together into feeds (Twitter). And you can even follow hashtags on some platforms (Instagram) meaning that you can expose your post to a large audience than isn’t just in your follower list, exponentially.
- Third, never stop learning. The internet moves fast and that means as a creative person on it, you have to keep up or you’ll be left behind. Even now there are new platforms emerging for you to be creative on e.g. Tik Tok.
- Forth, keep your mouth shut. Don’t make waves, don’t draw negative attention to yourself and your work. Always do your best, never mail it in.
Don’t Be Afraid To Change
Anyway, when that opportunity came to an end I moved onto another internship where I would be writing long form.
I learned the ins and outs of wordpress (the most widely used blogging and website creation platform in the world, 33% of entire internet). Once again I cannot express how important that has become to me working and being creative.
Even right now I am typing on the wordpress platform and having a blast!
More importantly, I learned to properly write blogs or articles for the internet.
Things about writing for the internet –
- Short paragraphs (3-4 sentences max)
- Short sentences (20 words or less)
- Write so it can be read by everyone (use regular vocabulary)
- Post links throughout (Internal and external, SEO purposes)
- Use headings and subheadings to divide up your text
- Post images or Youtube clips to bring home your content
This is a really short and blunt list and there is probably more that I’m not thinking of right now but this should get you started on the right track if you are looking to start a blog of your own.
I was lucky enough to find a job after that second internship where I pretty much meshed all my skills together. But I don’t really need to talk about any of that because what I did there (Adobe, blogs, content etc) has already been addressed.
Have Personal/Side Projects Going Always
After some time I decided that I needed to pursue my own passions once again.
But since my computer with all my short stories on it had been summarily put out to pasture (dead) I was starting from ground zero once again. I had no portfolio to work on and I felt somewhat at loose ends.
Okay so embarrassing admission time – I’ve always wanted to write something that got turned into a movie. I know that is a big dream, but I’ve been an avid film buff from the time I was a small kid so I kind of just lean that way.
What I decided is this – I would write my first ever screenplay!
The first thing I did was find out what were the fine points of doing such a thing since I had no experience. I downloaded a course on Udemy (which was super cheap and full of info) and got to it.
The first mistake I made is that I wrote a good 20 or so pages not formatted correctly and in the wrong tense.
You see screenplays are always written in the present and are formatted very specifically to industry standards.
When I found out I had blundered, I took a second and re-thought my plan of attack. I did some more research and found there were an enormous amount of word processing programs built specifically for formatting screenplays.
I purchased one, First Draft. It is amazing, it essentially does all the tideous formatting for you when you strike the tab button.
So I reformatted what I had written and I was off. I set a lofty goal of writing 10 pages a day (very hard). I didn’t necessarily hit my goal but in the span of a month I felt pretty done with my first ever screenplay.
Then I let it sit before editting it.
You see I get excited. And when I’m excited I’m not a good judge of my own work. So I decided to let it sit and stew before I would cut/rewrite/edit.
I was pleasantly surprised that when I finally reread it, it held up.
I’m now writing another and I still love doing it. Having the appropriate word processing programs that formats my work for me is great, easy, and also so much fun.
It’s taking me a bit longer than the first one I did since it’s a totally different kind of story but what I’ve learned is each creative endeavour is an apples and oranges type comparison.
Copywriting for the business world is not writing short stories, and both are not like screenplay writing whatsoever.
The best thing to do as a creative is to constantly expose yourself to new avenues and channels to be creative in and see what’s there.
My next goal is to enter something I’ve written into a contest and just see what happens.
Unfortunately this costs money. But whatever you gotta spend money to make money!
I’ve done some research and there is no shortage of contests that will take your work and poop on it. What I want is industry feedback.
It’s not like I believe the first screenplay I ever wrote is an Academy Award winner, so I want some feedback from people who actually work in the industry (if you know of any please leave in comments).
Anyway, screenplay writing is the last creative outlet I’ve found and I’m still fixated on it.
I’m sure there will be another ‘thing’ soon enough but until then I’ll just keep writing, blogging, meme’ing, and having a good time.
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