So, this month I’ve been talking about the power of stories. I’ve been trying to encourage you to share your story - to be personable, open and transparent.
I have a confession...
Even though I’ve been encouraging you to do these things, I’ve neglected to do them myself.
Because it’s scary putting yourself out there. But if I’m trying to encourage you to do it, then surely I should show some courage myself, right?
*Takes another swig of wine*
You see, I said that I started out writing stories as a child, then went to university to study business and naturally progressed into copywriting.
All of this is true.
But what I haven’t told you about is the struggle I endured in the meantime.
Conjuring new worlds and creating weird and wonderful characters is, and always has been, my favourite pastime. I think it has something to do with being an only child. I had no one to talk to, so I made people up. Simple. Until I got to the age of 13 when it started to get a little weird.
Telling a good story was the only thing that came naturally to me.
Writing was not.
I would fail horrendously at spelling tests.
Apostrophes were gobbledygook.
And this is how I spelt my name for years…
I remember the teacher pointing it out in front of the whole class in year 4 (she was nice like that). She laughed, other kids laughed, and my confidence plummeted.
I Needed Help
So, I hoisted down the big yellow pages from the top shelf of my living room, flipped it open and found myself a personal tutor – Mrs. Grey.
I told my parents I was sick of feeling stupid, and that I needed help. And to their absolute credit, they funded one hour of tutoring a week – when they had no money at all.
In fact, I later found out my Dad lived off cucumber sandwiches for lunch for a whole year, so I could improve my English.
So, I learnt. I spent hours and hours reading, writing and sticking post-it notes with grammar rules on the back of the toilet door to ensure maximum absorption into my brain!
I climbed slowly up from the bottom set in English. By the time I was in year 10, I was in set 2 out of 8 – a big deal for someone like me.
My passion for stories never wavered, but my confidence in spelling and grammar was finally growing stronger.
I went to college and university. My confidence grew and grew.
Until I started working...
My first job was wonderful in all sorts of ways. I was a marketing assistant for a theatre in Blackpool. It combined two of my favourite things, the theatre and marketing. Plus, I got to watch shows for free and that was pretty cool.
One of my first tasks was writing a press release for a new production. I took the work home and spent hours and hours drafting and redrafting the perfect article. I was excited at the prospect of having an article featured in the press, based on something I'd created. I was looking forward to showing it my parents, proving to them that the cucumber sandwiches were worth it.
The next day, I handed it to the PR Manager. She took what felt like forever to read it, plopped it down on the table, looked me in the eye and said…
“It’s shit. I’ll have to re-write it.”
My heart sank. I felt like that stupid little girl in year four all over again, being laughed at by my teacher.
Unfortunately, the PR Manager was right.
And like I did back then, all those years ago, I had to learn.
Back to the Drawing Board
It felt different this time. I had grasped grammar and spelling. I could tell a good story. But I hadn’t a single clue how to write web copy or a decent press release. My social media posts lacked oomph. I found myself struggling.
I hit the books, blogs, and video tutorials – anything I could get my hands on that would teach me about writing. Thank you, Internet.
Because here’s the thing, you can be a good writer, but to be the kind of writer that compels your reader to take action, that takes skill.
But things gradually started to work
Social media engagement began increasing.
I sent my first press release out three months later.
Now, I’m writing eBooks to email sequences, web copy to advertorials. I’m ghostwriting and working on my second novel - the first one is to remain in a drawer, never to see sunlight.
I know my limitations. Hard sales copy, you can forget it. And I’ll always be the kind of writer that features stories in their writing.
But my point is, it’s sheer arrogance to think we know everything. I will continue to learn the craft of writing. I will be doing so for the rest of my life.
I love every second of what I do. Whether that’s writing for magicians or plumbers (I’ve done both), or writing for myself.
So, if you really want to achieve something, keep going. Keep learning.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid! I know that’s so much easier than it sounds. Every time I hit publish on a blog post or finalise my client’s copy, I get these tight knots in my belly. But every time you push yourself, the knots begin to unravel - just a little bit at a time.
I know if I can do it, you certainly can.
Now, what happened to my wine? ;)