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Melinda Crow

So You Think Your Career Choice Doesn't Require Good Writing Skills?

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Melinda Crow
Melinda Crow
 2021-05-10

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Here are three reasons you may be wrong

Good writing plays a role in careers that seemingly have nothing to do with writing. But remember, everybody writes. Geologists write reports; congressmen write laws; therapists write patient notes.

But what about when you need a little self-promotion?

Probably the most important need for writing skills is the fact that there are very few jobs in which self-promotion is unnecessary. Sure, professional athletes and pop stars can hire PR people to ensure glowing things are written about them. But the reality is that social media has created a world in which fans, customers, patients, and even voters have an enormous appetite for interaction with the people that we place our trust in.

Those interactions create trust—or distrust as the case may be. It is by the words they share with us that we develop our most accurate impressions.

Social media has created a world in which we are all writing our own autobiographies as we go.

And even if you have no need to promote yourself to the world, your ability to rise to the top of your own small piece of the world, may depend on your ability to promote yourself to someone in a higher position. It begins with job applications, resumes, and pitch letters, and continues with performance reviews, self-assessments, and requests for promotions and raises.

But the need for writing skills for self-promotion is by no means limited to social media. Ever wonder who writes the content on Kickstarter pages—usually the inventors themselves. Who writes the descriptions (and rules) for the properties listed on Airbnb? The hosts do. Want your art gallery to be successful? You had better be able to write ads, website copy, and intriguing invitations to get the right collectors in the door.

Medical professionals must not only write patient notes accurately to avoid legal headaches, but they can also boost their status within their fields by publishing case studies or by contributing to health publications.

You Tubers, comedians, and cruise directors must engage their audience and that begins with words they craft in writing before every post or performance.

And you may someday need to write your way OUT of a job

In case you haven't noticed, the workplace is in a constant state of flux. The new normal is no normal. Job descriptions change constantly (for better or worse), and what were once common jobs barely exist anymore. And it's not only technology and business models that have created the changes. People are finding new and more creative ways to pay their bills, often exchanging their original dream jobs for something else entirely, sometimes for health reasons (physical and mental), or often for no reason other than a desire for change.

My colleague Dennis Littley was a chef for years until he realized that his body could no longer take the brutal hours and working conditions demanded of a restaurant chef. Good thing he writes well because his blog and social media have helped him rise to the top ranks of online food and travel influencers.

Even if your chosen endeavor does not involve a great deal of writing, consider good writing skills your fallback. When you can no longer face one job, you can always write your way to a new life.

John Grisham worked for a plumbing contractor until he wrote his way into the legal profession, which he did until he wrote his way out of that as a novelist.

Stephen King was a high school janitor until he wrote his way into a best-selling novelist—and one of the best damn writers of our time.

Harper Lee was an airline reservation clerk until she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird and created the entire legal drama genre that made John Grisham famous.

Remember that writing is the vehicle that gets you to your dream destination. As that dream changes, writing will always be there—like a faithful old pickup truck waiting to haul you and all of your baggage to the next dream.

Writing as Passive Income

I am certainly not a financial guru, but I read enough to know that those who know how to grow wealth talk a lot about passive income as the best way to be financially secure. Passive income is money that magically appears in your bank account without the constant work required to put it there. Sources include investment dividends and interest, as well as royalties, residuals, and resales of creative properties—like the stuff you wrote.

I have three guidebooks still in print—one of them about to come out in its fourth edition—and twice a year I get royalty checks. Those royalty checks include small amounts paid by Trails.com to my publisher for the use of my words on their website without attribution. Pretty cool, huh?

But I can top that with the story of an article I wrote in 1989 that consists of roughly 500 words. It was published in a print magazine that paid me $300 for the right to be the first to publish it in print in North America. I retained all other rights.

I have resold those 500 words to four different English language workbook publishers in three countries—and get paid every time they republish the workbooks—which in some cases is twice a year. I calculated recently that those words have earned me more than $30,000 since 1989. I did the work once, but still get paid thirty years later. Passive income at its best.

I want to note that my $30,000 article is not the norm for freelance writers; it is not even something I have been able to reproduce to that same extent. It is purely a case of the right words in the right place at the right time, but it is a prime example of what you can do with the power of the written language, and a door that is open to you for additional income, no matter what career path you are on.

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