What effects my style?

I have been asked to do some freelance work. It is the first time that I have ever really done something like this and it is both exciting and a bit scary. I have to essentially mimic the other copywriter’s copy which is a fascinating exercise in really paying attention to what is my style and what isn’t. I have also written so much for the web, that I find that I have crafted my style so that it is more “web worthy.”

I have heard that doing advertising copy can actually ruin a writer’s craft. I can sort of see that as there are words that I find myself using over and over again. Or, there were words that I tended to use because it was good for those pesky “spiders” on search engines. These things don’t necessarily apply while I am doing this other work…they also don’t apply when one is trying to write something that isn’t advertising copy.

I am reminded of a discussion that I had with my thesis supervisor about the style of academic writing. One of the things she was supposed to do was curb my writing style so that I would write in the context of academic prose. She described my natural style as too colloquial and that it was important for me to understand the audience that I was writing for. Ironically, I think that I had gone to graduate school initially to get some credibility so that I could write history books for a larger audience then academia. I know that in some schools of academia what is termed “popular history” – history written for the masses isn’t always worthy of academic praise…even if the author comes from an academic background. Perhaps it is because of the prose style which isn’t as stiff as academic writing can be.

I somehow successfully curbed my writing to coincide with the style that was worthy of academic achievement and got my Masters Degree. I then spent the next six to eight months learning to write in a different way again. I have a friend who returned to journalism school after doing her Masters Degree and told me that she had to literally re-learn how to write.

So my question is: between writing for academia and writing for marketing, will I be sacrificing my own personal style? Or, will it enhance or balance out the writer in me? For all of it is still writing and I will be in the “writing mind.” And there are times when I have written something at work that I am almost proud of. I love those moments when I have written something and then came back to it and wondered who wrote it – actually forgetting that it was me! Hilarious. Too hilarious.

I think what the freelance work will help me discipline my writing behaviour. If writing is going to be my job then I need to treat it as seriously I would any other job. Get up in the morning, grab my cup of coffee, sit down and work. This job forces me to structure my time a little bit more.

Success stories that I have read or heard about writers who have had full time jobs involve some sort of sacrifice of time – like getting up at 4AM and writing for a few hours. Or, writing on the train on the way to the office. Or, coming home and writing after dinner. I find that if I come home and sit down at the computer right away, I can get about two hours of work done. Morning writing seems to work too if I rotate it with my yoga in the morning.

One of the gifts that I am giving to myself is Sunday. Sunday for me is going to be my creative day. If that involves writing or doing a collage that will help me open myself up to more aspects of my writing or play piano, then that is what it will be. Tomorrow is Day one of my new plan. I hope that I am setting myself up for success.


About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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