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  • Writer's picturealisonkilian

My Career as a Writer Isn't Quite Like I Pictured It...

When people ask what I do for a living and I say "I'm a writer," they immediately envision me sitting in a desolate cabin, hammering out novels. The reality is a bit less romantic.

I always wanted to be a writer. Sure, I had my moments of doubt — like when I briefly considered pre-med in college — but overall, I stayed true to the dream. My parents are both journalists, I grew up in a house filled with books, and I loved to read and write from an early age. A career as a writer was basically my destiny — one that I've fulfilled.

That said, making a living as a writer is a bit different from what some people imagine. When people ask what I do for work, and I tell them, I usually get one of two responses. The optimists of the world ask me, "Oh wow, would I have read anything of yours? What kinds of books do you write?" These sweet-hearted dreamers clearly equate "writer" with "novelist," and assume I'm writing literary masterpieces for a living. The pessimists of the world usually sneer something along the lines of, "You make a living with that?" Both sides have it wrong.

Yes, I make a living as a writer. In fact, I make a pretty comfortable living. That said, it has taken a long time and a lot of effort — ten-plus years of honing my craft, building my portfolio, growing my client list — to hit that point. I've also had to adapt my idea of just what a "writer" is. When I was younger, I certainly equated "writer" with "author," and dreamed of crafting best-sellers from a reclusive cabin in the woods. That's not quite how it turned out.

Do I write books? Yes! I regularly ghostwrite (romance!) novels for book publishers. I also publish (fantasy!) under a pen name of my own. However, that's just one small part of what I do. My work also includes:

  • Ghostwriting books, thought-leader articles, and white papers for business leaders — people who have great ideas but don't have the time to put them to paper.

  • Copywriting for marketing and advertising agencies, creating all kinds of content from website landing pages to social media campaigns.

  • Blogging for international brands, like Office Depot and MeisterTask, covering everything from tech topics to project management.

  • Reporting news and public interest stories for international media, from Germany's Der Spiegel to ABC News in the US.

  • Writing video scripts for nonprofits, lobbying associations, corporate brands, and more.

As you can see, "writing" doesn't just mean "writing book." It's not the career I envisioned as a kid — but it's just as rewarding (and even more exciting, given the diversity). I work in my many different formats and for many types of clients. But at the core of it all is the written word — and storytelling. Whether it's a social media post or a book, it needs a good story. And that's where I come in :-)

Storytelling is the key to communication and it's what I do best. In fact, when people ask me what I do for a living, I should stop saying I'm a writer. I should probably tell the truth — I'm a storyteller.

Thank you for reading my blog! This is a space where I share personal thoughts — an opportunity for self-expression that has nothing to do with my professional writing. None of the thoughts or opinions expressed in this blog should be construed as anything but my own, nor should they be affiliated with any company or person I contract with or write for.

NOW that that's done... I'd love to hear from you about this blog post in the comments!

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