So let me tell you a funny story about why you should consider going to this year’s Catholic Writers Conference Live.
Fellow Catholic Patheosi Kate O’Hare shared a link to an article about clickbait-mills over at Slate, “Dear Journalists: For the Love of God, Please Stop Calling Your Writing Content.”
The gist of the article is this: The label “content” is used as a catch-all for the loads of shoddy garbage that the internet spews out daily in the never-ending quest for ad revenue. Therefore, the essayist urges writers not to lump their own good work in with that drivel by accepting the term “content” to describe what they do.
Now here’s the funny story:
I’m an accountant, MBA, did great in b-school (awards from professors and stuff), came of age reading the Wall Street Journal. Thinking about business is one of my hobbies.
I’m also a writer. I’ve been writing since as long as I could write, both as a hobby and sometimes-profession. I was the person people tapped at work to do the writing things. I was also the girl filling notebook after notebook with personal writing in every spare moment, alternately amusing and mystifying the relatives.
So you would think that a person whose two interests are business and writing would be a natural at just instinctively understanding the business of writing.
Oh goodness you would be so wrong.
When I showed up at my first Catholic Writers Conference (online, in my case — it would be some years before I made it to a live conference), I had no clue. None. Patient instructors had to explain everything to me.
Once I was clued in, it all clicked. But someone had to tell me. The writing part of your brain — the part that just wants to tell stories and write poems and play with words — that part doesn’t necessarily connect with the making-a-living part of your brain. The Catholic Writers Guild is the place where I learned to put those two halves together and turn writing into something that’s more than just a hobby.
(It’s not my full-time profession right now, but that’s mostly because I have a different full-time vocation that takes precedence.)
So here’s the funny thing about the Slate article: I think of my work as very good content, but content it is. It’s my job to deliver what the reader hungers for — little meals of words.
Books don’t just pop out of the magic book machine. You have to write what people long to read, because the readers have to want it enough to be willing to pay for printing and layout and editing and the author’s time. None of that is cheap, because all the humans involved in producing a book have to drum up food and shelter and hopefully even clothing for themselves.
And thus my job: Deliver the content. Content is the stuff that people want to read. It’s the stuff that makes you come back for more. You don’t walk into a bookstore in order to pick up a wad of paper. You go looking for content: The ideas that the paper contains that are worth your time and money.
I agree with the author at Slate, good writing is in no way the same thing as that horrible clickbait certain sites churn out. But in a weird way, learning to think about my writing as content has made all of it more satisfying. Even when I’m tapping out some horribly written, plot-thin novel for my own entertainment, I can see it now for what it is, and appreciate it for what it is. Who is this for? What purpose does it serve? What value does it bring to the world?
All writing answers those questions.
I’m forever grateful to the Catholic Writers Guild for being the place where I learned to really think about my writing and learn to put it into the place in my vocation where I think it belongs. If you like to write, check out this summer’s conference and see if you think it’ll be helpful.
- Here’s my article at Aleteia in advance of this spring’s Online Conference, “Online Catholic Writers Conference Seeks to Revive Catholic Arts and Letters: Guild helps put writers, agents and publishers together.”
- Here’s me talking about everything the Catholic Writers Guild has done for me.
You can learn more about joining the Catholic Writers Guild here.
CWCL Logo courtesy of the Catholic Writers Conference Live.
Engraving: Young woman operating a Sholes and Glidden typewriter, from “The Type Writer” Scientific American 6 (27). August 1872, by Ten Eyck N.Y. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons