How Creative Writing Made Me a Better Blogger
by Jessica Ruane
Like every aspiring child writer, I grew up believing I’d be the next great American novelist.
I had dreams of sitting out on the balcony of my beach house, effortlessly composing the next bestseller, taking the occasional break to read letters from fans and devoted readers. Oh, how adorably clueless I was.
As I got older, family and friends showed their support for my chosen career path by buying me countless books on writing.
Ironically, their innocent encouragement soon became the source of my disillusionment.The books were full of horror stories, caveats, and warnings on how the odds of becoming a published author were not in my favor.
I felt destined to fail
In college, I took countless creative writing classes, only to hear the same thing from my professors. Although my teachers were all talented wordsmiths, they were all “failed” writers themselves.
My vision of life as a bohemian poet living on the beach was fading fast. The future did not look promising.
Slowly but surely, I gave up.
Blogging is for babies
I know it sounds impossible, but I didn’t even hear about blogging — much less blogging for pay — until after I graduated from college.
The “elite” world of creative writing viewed blogging as a desperate author’s low-rent attempt to attract an audience.
Snarky remarks from classmates about the dire consequences of democratizing the publishing process kept me away from blogging. I was resigned to filling notebooks in solitude with my “sub-par” writing.
Embracing the blog
After a while, the notebooks got old. The part-time jobs were getting tiresome. Getting my M.F.A. seemed pointless.
Occasionally, I’d muster up the determination to apply for writing jobs posted on Craigslist.
One day, I heard back about a copywriting internship. I was hired—my first job as a writer!
For the job, I needed to write web copy, press releases (nothing I couldn’t handle), and—the dreaded “B-Word”—blogs.
I didn’t know if I could do it. I went to school to write poetry, not blogs!
Then I realized something wonderful. All my creative writing skills — poetry, short fiction, characterization, and imagery — can be applied directly to blog writing.
Why had nobody told me this before?
I had been so stressed out over learning how to blog, that I didn’t even realize that I already knew how.
How I use poetry and prose in my blogs
Alliteration in headlines
Headings have to be catchy and click-worthy and irresistibly juicy, but there’s no reason they can’t do all that and sound beautiful, too. Tapping into my poetry background allows me to write headlines that just ooze with layers of meaning.
My favorite approach is to use alliteration to give headlines added flair. For Example:
Your surfaces are too superficial, so I will use your slippery sides to slide to and fro.
Traditionally, alliteration is used in lines of poetry (like the one above) to create rhythm. You can appropriate alliteration (get it?) to help you write beautiful headlines.
Imagery enlivens dull topics
If you’ve ever taken a creative writing class, you’ve heard the phrase: “Show, don’t tell.”
I find the use of imagery especially helpful when writing about a boring topic.
Recently, I needed to blog about a census data feature on my company’s website. I was trying to convince users that our way of delivering census data was superior to a government website’s.
Are you still awake? Here’s how I spiced this up:
I wrote, “ [On a government website], trying to find information on a specific neighborhood is like swimming through an ocean searching for a drop of water. By the end of the day, you’re washed up on some deserted beach, shivering, exhausted, with blurred vision and burning eyes.”
If the subject matter of your copy is bone dry, some vivid images can give it a splash of personality.
Creative writing workshops toughen you up
When you take a creative writing class, you go through a process called “workshopping.”
When it is your turn, you read your piece aloud, and then sit there while everyone takes turns telling you everything they don’t like about it. All you can do is sit back and listen, as your hard work is eviscerated.
It’s really kind of a masochistic process. If you ever want to see a grown man cry, watch him workshop a piece of poetry.
Traumatic though it may be, it makes you a better writer. Workshopping teaches writers how to abandon their egos and focus on improvement. I am able to take heavy criticism from editors in stride, because I apply the lessons I learned when it was my turn to be brutally workshopped.
But does it make me happy?
Yes. I can honestly say that I’m happy I chose to produce web content and blog, as opposed to pursuing an M.F.A.
Not only do I make more money than my friends who are still stuck in grad school, I get to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing for a living.
Do you think blogging is the new frontier of writing? Can’t wait to read your comments!
Jessica Ruane is a freelance blogger living in San Diego, CA. She writes about any topic under the sun from social media and online dating, to cat behavior (no, seriously).