Oh right, I forgot to optimize.

Learning to shift from literary writing to commercial writing was my first big challenge as a copywriter.

I wrote fiction for three years as part of a literary group in college. I read JD Salinger books over and over, almost memorizing lines and passages. I was an advertising major but my true love was literature.

And as a so-called fiction writer, more than formulating interesting plots, I loved wordplay. Just playing with sentences made me happy. And most of my stories were those plotless ones, with a lot of endless rambling. Making music with words, is how I liked to think of it.

But when I was finally paid for my writing, I had to write brochures. In the commercial world, my writing — what I thought was literary prowess — came off as “too mushy.”

With much practice, and much cringing while at it, I learned to write with a commercial voice. Writing menu item descriptions for restaurants was my favorite. Until I ran out of adjectives. (Yes I was very young and still adjective-dependent.) Today I cringe thinking about how many times I used the words succulent, delectable, mouthwatering.

But, I had it good. Writing for graphic designers rather than advertisers (advertising was my major) shielded me from having to write sales copy. We were kind of idealists about creativity, about solving problems, about understanding people. We saw the world differently. We wrote stories, and we wrote with depth. We would get rid of anything that felt like sales talk. It felt inauthentic, money-minded.

Since then I’ve transitioned into what is, to me, a relatively new space: digital marketing. And I find myself in a familiar spot. A transition not unlike that of the literary writer learning to speak a commercial language. I’ve been doing this for three years but marketing still feels like new territory to me.

I recently shared a hastily written news article draft with our team and the first comment I got was “where are the keywords?”

Imaginary facepalm.

The keywords. How could I forget.

I forgot because I never really had to think about them before.

I work in a world where there’s the tension between creativity of wordplay, and the practicality of marketing. The awareness of the best practices of optimisation, the algorithms of social media, the psychology of influence.

The tension is good, it helps me strike a balance between strategy and creativity. Between calculated risks and bold experimentation.

Going through all these developments in marketing and communications helps me understand and affirm my purpose. As a writer, I know what I’m here for. I’m here to connect with readers, to create experiences, to tell stories.

And to make sure the keywords are in place.

Originally published at thereluctantmarketer.blogspot.com.

Writer • Communication Designer • Type Explorer | janinaa.com

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