Shortly after starting my first ‘real’ job, I received a piece of advice that cut deep.
I was 22 years old, and had spent the last 19 of them wanting to be a writer. A good writer I was not – my sentences were too long, my paragraphs stream-of-consciousness, my style a ridiculous mangle of the surreal and the self-indulgent.
Nonetheless, I was finally doing it for a living, and a journalist had swung by to offer tips. “Shorter is better,” he told me. “Simpler is better. Get rid of all the sub-clauses. Your copy should foreground its subject matter. Nobody cares what you personally think about x, y or z.”
Most of these points hit home, and gradually my copy tightened up. But as time went by, I wasn’t just trimming the fat – I was butchering the very vocal cords. Nobody did care what I personally thought, so why bother churning out anything at all from a first-person stance?
I left that job eventually for a journalism MA, followed by my current job in B2B mags. It’s not exactly ‘writing from the heart’. As I expound the enactment of optimised automation systems for the medical devices sector, any ideas I once had about the writer – entertainer, interrogator, artist – have come to seem hopelessly ill-informed.
And yet I cannot help but miss my old way of writing. I’ve started a blog not because I have anything much to say, but purely because I need an outlet.
Inconsequential word splurge coming soon.
British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands