Personal

Am I Paddling Upstream Or Down?

How do you build a credible content writing portfolio without experience?

Right then, Writer Man, Mr Enda Stories, let’s be having you …

Kids in school, house to yourself, coffee, nice vanilla wafer (okay, two!) … couldn’t get upstairs to your computer fast enough … and here you are now, your two hands dangling above your keyboard, staring at a blank screen … Plonker!

Okay, okay, Mr Shithead Self-Critic, quit sniping already: I’ve just killed the void with that all-important first paragraph, haven’t I? And this is the third one already …

Oh, cut the procrastinating nonsense … what do you want to write about, really … more guff about that Nothing You Want Is Upstream crap you were on about last week?

No … yes … no …  yes …  just let me think clearly for a minute …

Don’t you just hate it when you have an idea neatly mapped out in your head, and then you sit down to write about it and your brain turns to wobbly blancmange?

And that blancmange image has taken over now, and your finger is squidging into the gelatinous goo, deeper and deeper, icky sticky  …  now the blancmange is changing colour, brain-grey to dark, shimmering green, now red … wobble, wobble.

Nothing you want is upstream!

It all seems so attractive, liberating even, this notion that if you are trying really hard to make something happen, and it’s not working out, then it just isn’t right for you, so quit paddling against the current, let it go.

But let what go, exactly?

Are we talking about giving up?

For some time I have been caught up with trying to use my writing skills to find additional work as a content writer.

I work freelance as a newspaper sub-editor. Newspapers are in trouble and my regular work could dry up anytime … so I need to have something to fall back on.

Besides, we could always do with a bit more money.

Kids are expensive, life is expensive … 

We are not shirkers, my wife and I.

A works full-time, I do at least two evenings a week in the newspaper and jump at the chance to do more.

First world worries, maybe, but real enough to us.

So the solution seemed obvious: use my editing skills and my writing ability, and so I have applied to PR agencies, advertising agencies, I have contacted local businesses and chambers of commerce,  emailed restaurants and travel agencies, local councils … asking about handling their social media stiff, on Facebook. Twitter, whatever.

It’s all writing, innit!

I even did a digital marketing course – a short one as I could not afford to do the year-long one that was recommended. 

So I’m all over this Content Marketing, SEO and Calls To Action  … I have  165 A4 pages of notes to prove it.

Only I’m not.

I’m caught in that awful in-between place where I think most of it is total, Emperor’s-New-Clothes, Grade-A bullshit, and then there is that nagging other voice telling me those who are good at this content marketing business are really clever and talented, there are opportunities galore, only troglodyte me has missed the digital boat.

And I’m paddling upstream after it in my patched up rubber dinghy, pulled left, dragged right … paddling, paddling, taking in water …

Too old, too old school …

But writing is still writing, and a clearly written press release with a bit of dash and colour must still be viable?

I could do that!

And on it goes, this War of the Poses inside my noggin.

The truth is I have tried all sorts and very little has happened … a few bits and bobs, but no consistent paid writing work.

No regular gig.

So no bulging portfolio to catch the eye.

Catch 22 innit!

Every day I get those emails offering me 10 Ways to Build Up High-Quality Backlinks, or How To Generate 100 Content Ideas in 60 Seconds (the two most recent).

 I’m thinking: this is really obvious stuff, I could do it, and anyway they’re just digitally marketing themselves, these guys; and I’m also thinking: this is really sophisticated stuff, and I just don’t get it.

I talk myself down and I talk myself up: look, it’s all writing, your editing skills are great for cutting to the heart of a story, and would be great for getting to the heart of a marketing campaign message.

And your writing skills will polish and refine it, make it so engaging.

You just need that breakthrough. And it will come …

And I continue to paddle upstream, pushing at something that really isn’t working out, and so it’s not for me.

Just. Stop. Paddling.

But maybe I’m not looking in the right places … if I just get past the email tray of the next PR agency head honcho, I will be in there, and they will see what I can do …

I will be in the flow.

My own flow.

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream …

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41 comments on “Am I Paddling Upstream Or Down?

  1. If you’re still enjoying creating content then keep paddling, even if it is upstream.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The way I look at is that if you are upright then you are paddling upsteam. #Triumphanttales

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Karen Dennis

    I feel that I am usually paddling upstream because I am fighting the effects of stroke, recently however, I am going downstream slowly, as I have found the confidence to start going out alone in my electric wheelchair #b?oggerclubuk@_karendennis

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This could be me…well apart from the newspaper stuff, I’ve never done that. But even your babbling at the beginning…oh the ideas I have for such brilliant things to write, then, mush. I found out, after blogging since the stone ages, that you could actually earn money from it. Great I said, ‘show me the money’ but after selling my soul and my blog (upstream!) I decided I didn’t like it very much, it wasn’t me, not my voice. But still we keep paddling away, we’ll get there one day I’m sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I dontr know how commercial bloggers do it, either make money or get real satisfaction from it. Maybe the money! I was never attracted to the idea of being paid in samples of a product you must review either. So …

      Like

  5. Tracey Abrahams

    Eugh, I recognise that constant arguing with your brain scenario when you go to write a blog post. With the exception of my patterns I question most of what I put down in words these days.

    #abitofeverything

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’ll be well away soon Enda. At least you can write. And that’s more than can be said for some people. 15 years as a journalist and news editor receiving crap press releases every day tells me that! #ItsOK

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a brilliant post, you write so well. I loved the blancmange comment at the start. I can relate to that a lot! #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 1 person

  8. May the force be with you, even if it’s the 8th… wishing you the best of luck to land the extra gig, surely well deserved! #dreamteam

    Like

  9. Its a challenge sometimes, ignoring that voice in our heads that says we’d be happier taking another path. Theres a balance to be found between doing what we need to do and doing what we want to do. sometimes it takes a while to find #lilbitofeverything

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Just keep gently rowing. I’m a firm believer that writing talent shines through all of the others who use fancy internet buzzwords to get a foot in the door only for their employers to see they can’t spell the word ‘extraordinary’ without help. You are not a good writer, you are a GREAT writer. #BloggerClubUK

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Enda I feel your pain and it is so not easy. There are many of us that enter this blogging malarkey thinking that it will provide a shop window for our writing skills but it’s difficult to really stand out from the millions online – particularly if reviewing products etc is not your thing, but don’t give up. Your writing is on another level and one day something fabulous will come out of this. Jo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah thanks for that, Jo .. but you are right, it is hard to stand out in such a crowded cyberspace. I love doing the blog, but I would love to also get a regular paying gig that involved writing. And I would enjoy tackling all sorts of writing challenges. My sub-editing background is such that I also enjoy tailoring what is written to specific assignments. Here’s still hoping …

      Like

  12. unmindfulmama

    I think you write so engagingly Enda! We all have to pay the bills, I know, but I honestly reckon if you do what you love (and thus paddle down stream) you’ll get the right gigs for you. Just keep a floatin!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Enda! I think you’ve just said what we’ve all thought somewhere along the line about ourselves. You are a brilliant writer, and with your newspaper editing under your belt, something is out there for you. Do you write because you are good at it, or do you write because it’s in you and must come out? Writing is like breathing to me. It’s a must! I’m going to throw it out there… do you like content creation to deliver information, or would you ever try your hand at a novel – fiction? Just a thought. Thanks for bringing all the honesty to the #dreamteam 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I write because I love to Annette. Unfortunately my confidence rarely extends to fiction. I would just like to write regularly and get paid for it!! That’s all!!

      Liked by 1 person

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  16. I think we’re all in the same boat Enda, it’s a struggle finding freelance work unless you know someone with contacts. The one thing you can’t replicate is genuine talent and you have that in bucket loads, as well as experience, so keep paddling through the self doubt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Liberty. Thanks so much for your lovely comment … and listen, hear that splash? … that’s me paddling away!!

      Like

  17. Oh I feel like I’m in the same boat! Always needing more money and more work. It’s such a competitive industry that’s saturated with so many people so unless you have a spangly portfolio you get left behind…. we can do it! Just got to put our confident hats on!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. sorry for the late comment but I’ve been sofa surfing due to house renovations!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Such a relatable post. The bottomline is we’re all writers (I worked in a newspaper for 9 years before motherhood became my full-time job), but today’s writing jobs are more about being tech-savvy and ‘with it’ rather than the old-school thoughts on writing. Besides, nowadays, any and everyone wants to and often does become a ‘writer’. There’s far too much competition but keep afloat – quality and talent will always shine through. #itsok

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nicole. I agree about the tech-savvy, ‘with it’ bit … the worry is readers nowadays are less concerned with quality, and so they are writing for other tech-savvy, with-it people, so they know their audience …

      Like

    • I think great writing stands out a mile. I would love to be able to write the way you do – thought-provoking and funny at the same time – and I don’t think you should give up on something if it’s what you want. I also believe that you do need to step outside of your comfort zone, even if that does sound clichéd, to really achieve bigger things. How about writing ebooks? That automatically gives you more authority. An eBook on how to write, perhaps? Just a thought. #itsok

      Like

  19. Tracey Carr

    Enda I was on the edge of my seat reading this (because in ways you are describing how I feel every single day!) and naively thought there might be a big reveal at the end, as if you found some magical way to get to where you want to go. And then I realised that there is no magical solution. But I can relate so much to those frustrating feelings and I would whole-heartedly say this is one of those times to keep paddling. You can’t give up – your talent is too significant!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. You should see some of the press releases I get in my inbox everyday, you wouldn’t believe it. Then again, you probably would! #itsok

    Liked by 1 person

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