The Writing’s on the Wall.
Throughout my career in PR and communications, I’ve struggled with how to describe my job to family and friends. “Public relations” is technically accurate but semantically imprecise, suggesting big ticket ribbon-cuttings while missing the day-to-day reality of the work. “Communications” is pithy but ultimately too vague, and, ironically, I’m not sure it manages to communicate much of anything. After a while, I simply decided to start saying, “I’m a writer.” I do sometimes have to take care to explain that I’m not a novelist, or a screenwriter, or one of those newfangled “bloggers” my mother keeps hearing so much about. But with all those caveats in place, “writer” does feel like the best window into what I spend my days doing. Writing is many things to many people: creative outlet, persuasive tool, private venue for self-reflection. In a more utilitarian sense, it’s also an important career skill, and one that employers think graduates aren’t learning enough about in college. Maybe so. I’ve certainly worked with plenty of team members convinced that writing is not their strong suit. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had someone share a piece of writing with me, whether for a client or for their own purposes, asking me to review it and preface it by saying, “I know this is awful, but…” For many, this apprehension resembles the self-sabotaging “I’m just not good at math,” phenomenon. Whether due to genetics, luck, or who knows what else, writing becomes something you’re simply good at or you’re not. That’s just not the case. Every time a team member has shared their work, convinced it was destined to be redlined to oblivion, I should have told them, “You are a good writer, you just don’t know it yet.” Many of my colleagues display so many of the traits common to great writers without even realizing it. They readily accept feedback and suggestions about their writing from others and carry that guidance with them into the future. Whenever they’re unsure about the best way to write or style something particular, they don’t hesitate to ask for advice or check the right style guide to ensure they’ve hit the mark. They read voraciously, consuming mountains of news coverage and devouring every piece of writing their clients have ever created in an effort to better adopt their voices. Growing as a writer is like building any other skill; practice and consistency are key—I urge you not to sell yourself short and downplay your capabilities. I’m not saying you should put “writer” in your Twitter bio, especially if it’s already crowded with more apt descriptions and identities. But you deserve to feel confident that you are a good writer, even if you know you can always be better.