The Story Economy Blog

A Rediscovery Tale

chicagoYou know the feeling you get when you rediscover something you thought wasn’t there for you anymore—and it just wraps its arms around you so tightly? That’s how I felt last Thursday, at an event held in Chicago by the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA).

I used to be a member of ASJA and attend the yearly New York conference. But I let it drop three years ago when I (grudgingly) let go of magazine writing. My days were filled with fighting: fighting magazines to get paid, fighting to keep rights, fighting for assignments, and fighting a changing industry.

I didn’t want to fight so much anymore.

So I refocused my career on content marketing. Which was exactly what this conference was about.

More about the conference in a minute. But really, this story starts on the bus. The Megabus, to be exact. Have you taken this thing? It’s a little bit great, for low budget travel. Which is what this conference was, in my mind. Just testing the waters to see what this organization that once helped me secure lucrative magazine writing assignments had to say about content marketing writing.

So . . . taking the Megabus through Indiana—a state with an abundance of heartland and fantastic windmill farms—turned out to be very conducive for my creativity. I revised an essay, came up with a structure for a speech, worked on a new fiction project, and generally chilled.

I felt like a writer on a bus.

Which is a cool way to feel.

But it’s even better to feel like a writer among writers.

Which is what I didn’t even know I had been missing for three years.

Until I felt it again.

Welcome Back, Ketteler

From here, I could talk about the shifting dynamics of freelance writing. But so many people are doing that in really amazing ways, like Jodi Helmer, Kelly James-Enger, The Renegade Writer (this is not an exhaustive list—just a few of my colleagues).

I could talk about the way the business of creating content and building audiences has shifted—starting with our love affair with the word “content.” I definitely will write about that, because it’s very interesting, and applies to lots of you who either already are or want to be in the business of providing content to your people (clients, customers, followers, subscribers).

But I’ll save that for another newsletter.

Because what I want to talk about now is how great it felt to find my people again.

Earlier this year, I went to ConFab, a content strategy conference. I learned SO MUCH, and I’ve put it into practice. But I didn’t really connect with anyone. Everyone was there for a difference reason, hoping to learn different things. I didn’t even understand the job titles of half of the people there. I walked around each day with my lunch plate, sitting at different tables, striking up conversations, being friendly, and taking in information. But I didn’t really know people’s motivations for coming. Lots of people were actually sent there by an employer. The atmosphere was fun and friendly, but I wouldn’t describe it as kindred.

At this conference, called ConCon, we were all sent by ourselves, and all there for the exact same reason. All writers. All looking at this new world of opportunity. All eager to connect, share, and find content marketing clients. That’s a great feeling: to walk into a room and know that you can start a conversation with anyone, feel kindred in an instant, and make a connection that might span your career (or maybe they’re just complimenting your outfit, which is okay, too).

I was a writer among writers again. Not an outlier. Not a person escaping an industry of fighting. But a writer who belonged. And even the most stubborn, independent person (me) needs to know who their people are.

After I left “freelance journalist” behind, I tried on all kinds of titles. For a while, I said Brand Strategist. But that overarches what I do, and is not necessarily what I’m interested in or good at. Then I said Copy Strategist, because that combination of copy + strategy seemed right. But it never rolled off my tongue. Finally, I settled on Copywriter and Corporate Storyteller, which does a pretty good job saying what I do.

But I am such a writer, it’s not even funny. And as soon as I’m around them, I know it.

I love it when an experience takes you back to what you know you are, in the best way possible. When you thought you had to leave something behind, only to see it catch up to you and say: “Yo, where you been?”

I’m standing with the writers. It’s a good place to be.

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