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  • Writer's pictureKaren Divya Shekar

Fatiye-de: Will I Still Be Able To?

When I first started my job as a content writer, I was determined to succeed.

And impress.

I wanted everyone, including the management and my editors, to know that I could write.

After all I had spent four years writing a novel in secret and I craved external validation.

Indeed, I wanted the whole floor to see that I could write so well that I used all the highfalutin words at my disposal to sound erudite.

So I ‘proferred’ instead of ‘offered’. I worked “sedulously” and not “hard”. I “toiled” when I could have “laboured”, and I was “assiduous”, not “diligent”. My goal was to get everyone to notice me.

Unfortunately, my silly plan worked.

I say “unfortunately” because it earned me the wrong kind of label.

I was tagged as the kid with the bloggish tone since I made ample use of “you” and described roads as “smooth as butter” and an engine’s well-being as being in the “pink of health.” I couldn’t tone myself down to a polished content writer’s flow.

I liked the flair, the showy, the loud, attention-seeking vocabulary I had. (The one I had sedulously accumulated to show-off.) Too bad, nobody else did. Editors had to tell me off about using highfalutin words, and one client complained about the archaic words I was using in the write-ups.

But deep inside, I began to doubt myself.

I could not for the life of me adopt the straight-laced style of a severe finance writer, for which my company is famous. So what was I going to write?

I was left with nothing but the bits and pieces projects.

I call them that because they were what no one else except the misfits got. They involved one or two content for websites, LinkedIn posts, blogs and articles. I knew next to nothing about writing content for websites. I later had to teach myself how to write crisp, clear, to-the-point paragraphs for web pages.

Then one day, a bits and pieces project came up that changed the course of my “career”.

I can’t mention a word about the project. But the task was right up my alley.

I will never forget the look on the editor’s face when she was editing my work. She was amazed. And I felt an imaginary hand apply a seal of approval. I was ecstatic.

But life went on, and I was shunted from the bits and pieces projects to writing only blogs. Soon I felt I was pigeon-holed. Blogs? Is that all I could do? Couldn’t I sound serious and matter-of-fact?

Whenever a batch of blogs came to the office, it was assigned to me (among others). And I relished every moment of blog writing. Things got to such a head that one day, the same editor sent me my assignment with one instruction in Bengali: ‘fatiyede’ which loosely and poorly translates as “go, blow it up.”

I think she meant “go all out” and so I did.

To top it off, I later found out that the client had enjoyed it.

However, I just wasn’t getting the scope to challenge myself. I was stuck in a rut of gaudy blog-writing, and besides, people were beginning to think that’s all I could do. Yes, I still do care about what other people think.

Until one day, the editors went looking for a writer to write on stocks!

I knew next to nothing about stocks except what my Dad had taught me. I didn’t care. I volunteered. And that’s how I took my first steps into staid, simple, clear-cut writing with nary a flowery word.

I cut to the chase fast. I wrote ‘yes’ and ‘no’ with little introduction or preamble.

Truth be told, I had to psyche myself to write like that. I imagined I was some big-shot journalist with a “very important job” to do and employed the tone I believed the big-shot journalist would employ when reporting on futures and options.

It worked.

I was applauded for my efforts.

But I still wasn’t satisfied. I had something to prove. I didn’t want there to exist a “thing” I wasn’t good at. I wanted to be an all-rounder.

It was then that my company started receiving orders from tech-based companies. I soon got the scope to write in a brisk, business voice, with “resolutions” instead of “goals” and “outcomes” instead of “end-results”.

My world opened up considerably.

I began to appreciate the power of the written word that convinces, toys, conveys and commands. Slowly, I learnt to curb my style for the clients’ purpose.

This is probably the most challenging thing any content writer will learn to do.

Content writing isn’t about you, the writer. It’s about the client, their company, their voice, their ethos. It was a harsh lesson for me to stomach.

My background is in fiction, where the writer is a literal God, creating and destroying at whim, but here I had to respect the opinions of others, learn about “client requirements” and write accordingly.

It helped me evolve, but at the cost of my personal style.

See, I had begun to ape others. I read my colleagues’ work and picked up their way of writing. Shorter, crisper, clearer because I felt that’s what I needed to be in order to get the job done and be appreciated for it.

But it’s all begun to take its toll on me.

I haven’t written poetry in days.

I haven’t written a story in months. My old, gushing style has been clamped down a bit and I feel wary.

It led me to remember what one of my old colleagues had warned me about. Content writing kills the fiction in you. I began to feel the truth of her words.

So, here’s my question to you.

Did you start out wanting to write fiction and end up as a content writer or copywriter? And do you know feel the transition killed your inner fiction writer?

Because, friend, I need to know if I can still ‘fatiyede’ at my beck and call.

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