ARE WRITERS JUST CONTENT PROVIDERS?


Notes from a content content provider

When first discussed by PWAC members there was some dissention in the ranks on this question. The argument, which I admit to initially agreeing with, went like this:  We are professional non-fiction writers; we don’t just fill the blank spaces for our editors and publishers; we provide carefully crafted information designed to engage, enlighten, entertain, and give context. Should that be reduced to content provider?

I’ve come to accept and even embrace that term now, as have many colleagues. In fact Dawn Boshcoff renamed and repositioned her writing business to do just that—provide content. Many of my colleagues have successfully advanced their writing business to include content writing for a variety of online publications in addition to writing for magazines and newspapers, and doing corporate copywriting. Some write books and use social media and other online sites to write about their work. We provide content to engage, enlighten, entertain and give context and we do it well.

Too numerous to mention here, these are successful working writers. I join their ranks as a content provider and hope I’ll be equally successful. We populate these new media as never before because that’s what writers do—we write. And we want to be published whether in online or print media.

At an event organized by PWAC’s Ottawa chapter Peggy Blair talked about a long and sometimes painful journey getting her first book, The Beggar’s Opera, published. It was discouraging to hear her admit she’d lost the passion for writing, and is now building another career as a real estate agent. (She’d had a successful law career, then became a novelist, and is now a realtor—now there’s a story!)  Her publishing contract includes a second book, already written, and an option for a third. She’s learned a lot along the way and, if that third book is picked up, I hope she’ll rediscover the joy of creative writing. (Thank you Paul Lima for that line)   Maybe what Peggy Blair has learned is that she needs to provide the right content at the right time to the right client and it will all work out.

That’s what keeps me in this game of writing—the fact that it all does work out, and will continue to. I’m quite content being called a content provider.  It fuels my passionate journey in writing, and it pays a few bills along the way.

Are you a writer or do you have other creative pursuits? Do you see yourself as a content provider or something more?

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22 thoughts on “ARE WRITERS JUST CONTENT PROVIDERS?

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing this and getting the discussion rolling.

    I totally agree. Whatever the name, we do it and it’s needed (just do some web surfing and read some of the gawd-awful content out there). I have my blog for my other writing – sharing what’s on my mind, timely opinion pieces – other “content providers” write poetry and fiction. Some prefer time away from the computer for personal pursuits (golf, reading, family…). One important lesson I’m learning is that you should use your writing talents in a way that makes you happy, not looking at a project and going “Oh no, do I really have to do this?.”

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I really like your last statement: that it is so important to learn that lesson –to use your writing talents in a way that makes you happy, and not just to pay the bills by taking projects you don’t really lke. Of course you wind up doing a little bit of that sometimes, but we can hope that even the projects we didn’t like end up okay because we learned something new.

      1. I hear a fair bit of this from writers: “… it is so important to learn that lesson –to use your writing talents in a way that makes you happy, and not just to pay the bills by taking projects you don’t really like ….” I’m not going to say one should take jobs they don’t like just to pay the bills, but one might do that. At least i do that. I’m a writer. It’s what I do to pay the bills. I want to write and want to do it to make my living, so I happily do it. For me, it beats having a job saying, “Would you like fries with that?”

        I am not saying anyone who writes should emulate me! I am saying that for some, writing is their job. It’s what they do. Sometimes what I do is more interesting than other times, but unless I am ethically opposed to something, or don’t have the knowledge/skills required to do it, I take the job … cause it’s what I do. And happily do it.

      2. I agree with you Paul, that sometimes you take the jobs you don’t like, because they’re writing jobs, and we’re writers. I think what Suzanne was saying, and what I’m saying is that you get to a point where you won’t, or don’t take some jobs, because you can’t. You just can’t face work that you don’t like, and don’t want to do. I won’t work with a particular company in Kingston anymore because they made the time I worked with them before a living hell. I won’t go into details. It drove me crazy. I was hired by a publisher of a business journal to write this profile (for which they paid him, and I did get a bit of extra money for the aggravation, but not enough.) I’d rather work at a job where I had to say, “You want fries with that?” than have to write anything with or for that client again. Of course we’re going to like some work, and some clients or editors better than others, and there will be some writing work that we just don’t like, but we can hope that those are few and far between and we can just say no to the work that really makes us unhappy doing it.

  2. A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. I’ve never considered content a pejorative. Information that fills pages, or websites, or blogs and so on, is content. Some content is more serious and earth-shattering than other content, but it has been that way for a long, long time. I am a freelance writer — that is to say, I write words for pay. I won’t write anything for anybody who can pay, but I consider all serious writing job offers. In my spare time, because writing is my life (i.e., I am a dull person), I write non-fiction books and recently published a book of short stories. You can call what I write content; I don’t mind. As long as I am getting paid and don’t mind writing what I am writing, or as long as I am really enjoying the writing and making a bit of money with it. It’s what freelancers do, at least it’s what this freelancer does!

  3. Christine, I totally agree with you, of course! I think the greater challenge is getting clients to see things the same way and to value our contribution, and in the case of corporate clients, to pay professional rates that acknowledge our skill level.

    1. Gettting everyone to pay rates that acknowledge our skill level is indeed a challenge, but having other writers supporting us makes it so much easier. Thanks, Jaclyn for that follow-up comment.

  4. It may be the connotation of “content provider” with computers mindlessly gathering items for news readers that offends us humans. We’re not machines.

    Remember too that it is a generic term. An equal opportunity potential offender, it includes many things expressed in digital form: the well researched ­­story, the exquisite photograph, the funny video, the goofy graphic, the slick logo, the cartoon. It’s fluid new media that clicks not static “old” media with its old-fashioned table of contents.

    That’s another consideration: the content provided gets replaced so quickly and easily. It can be ephemeral despite the lingering links amid the digital layers. Some nostalgia mixes with resistance to the term content provider.

    1. Thanks for joining in this conversation, Jim, and for your very thoughtful comment. It may lead to even more discussion, which is great.
      For those who don’t know, Jim is my husband, and he supports and helps my work, and my life, in so many ways, for which I am grateful.

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