Ever since the mid-2000s, I’ve struggled with knowing how to label myself professionally. How does a business writer, creative writer, editor, proofreader, project manager, account manager, general liaison, distill all of that into one single title? “Writer” doesn’t begin to cover it at all. It has always seemed to me to be too feeble, too airy to define everything my professional work really covers.
I mean… talk about a crisis. Who am I? Why am I here? Help…!
Somewhere around the year 2009 I settled into a single title for my chosen vocation: “Communications Specialist.” I figured it was sort of a spinoff of the popular (in the corporate lingo of the time) Marketing Communications Specialist, a job title I figured I might want someday. I settled on Communications Specialist: broad enough to not pigeonhole myself into one specific career area (marketing, sales, etc.,) yet concise enough to more or less convey what I did for a living.
Seems logical, right?
However, lately I have really questioned that choice (which incidentally still is the tagline on my LinkedIn profile). I mean, “communications” can imply a lot of things. So many things that, honestly, I think in today’s world it basically means nothing. After all, am I a “specialist” in “communicating” via video? Audio? Writing? Is it just specializing in knowledge about a communications device like a smartphone or tablet? Is it business to business communications? Business to consumer? Business to extraterrestrial? Sales? Marketing? Journalism? Social media communications? Some BS made up job? Overall, Communications Specialist just feels like too many variables… it’s become too broad, too generic.
I think the nail in the coffin was when I recently got into a bad fight with someone close to me in my personal life. In a heated moment, they said, “for a writer, you’re terrible at communicating!”
Okay, that hurt. Not only was it said in the middle of a bad personal altercation, but they were also taking a swipe at my professional life, a big source of my identity.
Sadly, the jab has stuck with me. I mean, in many ways, I am a bad communicator. I am discerning when it comes to who I like to talk to or gather information from. I am so selective that I don’t really end up fully communicating. I am more likely to prioritize diplomacy and getting the job done efficiently: sometimes to the detriment of actually telling the full story.. Does that mean I’m a bad communicator? Maybe. Or maybe I’m just an efficient communicator. Or perhaps it just means I’m a selective communicator.
Ugh, this post is starting to sound like a character from a Woody Allen movie wrote it, isn’t it? Talk about neurotic!
Okay, so let’s say that I’m a reasonable enough communicator in my professional life (after all, nothing wrong with being diplomatic, right?!), but on the subject of other parts of my life, I think I am lacking a particular ease with communication. I don’t know that I always communicate my wants or needs very clearly (I’m usually too concerned about what others’ needs are, or I’m afraid I will sound shallow or needy or selfish if I express what I want). Paradoxically, when I feel I don’t have enough of an opinion or a say in things, I get frustrated and stressed. Eventually, I reach a breaking point, and expect everyone around me to understand why I am upset, without having communicated anything at all.
Again, maybe I’m just a selective communicator. Not necessarily a bad one. Just… bad at communicating the full picture?
Or maybe I just need to chill out. One or the other.
So back to writing, and the potential implications of this particular personality flaw on my writing. I am very hesitant – and even, at times, at a loss for words as to how to express myself – so how in the world can I write about situations or people or characters in such a way that can clearly convey information extremely well? I mean, just today, someone told me I was a “real wordsmith.” They didn’t have to take the time out of their day to email me a compliment, but they did.
That was nice.
But also, slightly frustrating. Because my allegedly brilliant wordsmithing seems to be relegated to the page. It doesn’t really extend to my real life.
Why can’t I write the script to my real life?! How can I always know what to write when I so frequently don’t know what to say?
Perhaps there is the element of detachment to it all. I write about products, situations, people, places, and characters that aren’t me. I don’t have to live their choices, suffer the consequences – or rewards – of their actions. There is definitely a safety net in all of that.
But more than that, I have to say that I am a good writer because I can see situations. I can so very clearly see – and more than that, build: scenarios, people, places. Whether it’s fiction – getting into the mind of a character – to nonfiction, writing what I see, feel, and believe a customer wants to know and understand about a certain product. In an instant, I can put myself into the position of 1000s of people and characters, real and fictional, and build the world they are in or the world they want to see and understand.
Perhaps, I’m not a communicator. I am just a builder. And by inserting myself into other situations, places, and minds, I am able to create the outcomes I want, for either my characters or my customers or my clients’ customers or even myself, and then translate that experience into words. I write what it is that I built in my mind.
My own world often feels too immediate, too real, too different, too vivid, to be able to effectively communicate the barrage of emotions that either I, or the others around me, are feeling in that instant. Of course, typically upon reflection, I can translate an experience I had into words. But that is usually once the experience has been put behind me. In the moment, it is too difficult to clearly communicate what is happening. I get tongue-tied like any other normal human, at a loss for what to say all too often.
So, yes. Perhaps I am lacking somewhat in the communication department in a moment. But I promise I can make up for it later on the page.
As for my made-up job title in my LinkedIn profile, “Communications Specialist,” I’m starting to think that I should just stick with plain ol’ “writer”.