The Danger of Losing Your Creative Self

For me, writing began as a passion when I was young. It was how I shared my thoughts and feelings when my physical voice failed me (as it often did). Ideas came easily to mind, and my fingers flew across the keys as I typed pages and pages of thoughts and stories.

For someone who hadn’t lived very much life, I had a lot to say.

Like many creatives, I turned my passion into my profession. Because writing was something I enjoyed and something I was good at, I felt I had found the biggest life hack when I realized people would pay me to write.

That’s what us copywriters do. We get paid to write. We write other people’s thoughts, stories, and manifestos. We write their product descriptions and company profiles and websites. We bring stories and brands to life through great writing.

The great copywriters are those who can write like anyone. They’re those who can adopt any brand’s voice and tone, those who can take a fraction of an idea and turn it into something truly beautiful and epic and on-brand. Those who can be anyone.

But what happens when we forget how to be ourselves?

A great copywriter must forget herself. Quite often, she has to make her own voice invisible and fully adopt that of the client. If she’s lucky, she had a hand in forming the voice. But it isn’t hers.

This is part of the fun, really. Switching between voices is a talent only possessed by the elite. The writers who can be several people, those are the writers you love to hire. But copywriting is a creative field, which means like most creative roles, people are here because they enjoy the art of what they do. And writing, as an art, is a means of self-expression.

See the problem?

You’ve made a career out of a self-expressive art, but in order to be successful, nine times out of ten you need to express everything but yourself.

If you’re not a writer, a true writer, this probably doesn’t matter to you. But if you are, then you probably wonder how you do both. Hell, I know I do.

How do you succeed at copywriting, where your voice is always someone else, but also stay true to the root of your passion, which is self-expression through writing?

How do you remember how to be you?

You find yourself in your job, and practice your passion.

Copywriting is a job. It’s a job I love, but it’s still a job. It’s a creative talent, too. Not only do you have to be a great writer, but you have to be able to forget yourself. If you want glory and recognition, then copywriting isn’t for you.

Writing, on the other hand, is a passion. It, like copywriting, is a creative outlet. But it’s one where you have no limitations. It’s one where your voice is dominant and your name is recognized and you can get all of the glory in the world for creating something amazing. The only goal is to create.

You’re not going to find yourself in copywriting through the writing itself. It’s not self-expression. So if your only commitment to keeping and developing your own creativity is in writing the copy you’re assigned, I can guarantee your own voice will fade, and those creative ideas will stop flowing.

Where you will find yourself is in the ideas. Every piece of content starts with an idea. It becomes a story – a story that you form. Thats the artistic side of copywriting. You might not pick the topic, or the voice, or the tone, but you pick the execution. And if you can dedicate yourself to that, and remember that part holds a piece of you, then you have solved part of the puzzle, my friend.

The other piece is practicing your passion. You create all day as a copywriter (or any type of creative). This means creating in your free time just got a little less shiny. It’s like eating chocolate for breakfast every morning…the excitement wears off. You’re going to need to try harder to pursue your passion.

Your head is filled with magnificent creative ideas. These ideas are what got you into the creative industry in the first place. But if you stop creating for yourself and only create for others, the well tends to run dry. Eventually you stop being you. You stop expressing yourself and your crazy ideas and your unique thoughts. You stop practicing your passion, and suddenly, you can’t find yourself in your career. You are lost.

Being a creative, personally and professionally, is a beautiful thing. But it’s a challenging thing, too. You have to work hard to keep your spark. You have to be someone else, but be you too. Because you and your creativity were what enabled you to turn your passion into a profession.

The best creatives can balance both. They recognize how one affects the other. So, they get better at their profession because they practice their passion. And in practicing their passion, they are able to consistently find themselves in their profession.

Written by Jack Scullin on March 30, 2016


Add A Comment
Katelyn Dramis says:

Thanks for the kind words and for reading, Meredith! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I think you're onto something with your point about why we find ourselves so self-critical when we waver or think our expression is lacking. Capturing the depth of that introspection and sending it out into the world seems almost impossible at times, doesn't it? Alas, it's also all part of the fun I suppose!

You are spot-on, and I can tell this is a deep and profound question for you - as it has often been for me, as a fellow writer who also enjoys copywriting. Where you took your passion for expression and ideas directly to a job and found fuel for your work through this outlet, I cultivated a very staunch and strict rule that I would write for myself and for my own motivations, first and foremost - and I can promise you that this is no easier a direction than the one you took, because it demands just as much introspection and questioning, and may provide very little to no remuneration for the creativity one produces. Such has been the case for me, certainly.

And now, I have found a similar fascination and enjoyment in copywriting to yours; and the self-questioning does not stop while I reach into the world of web designers to profit, in some enjoyable way, from work I love doing.

As I read about writers through the ages, I find many of them - if not most - are extremely introspective, and we find it hard, in a world that expresses itself through various imperfect vocal ways, to rustle our selves and our ideas to submit them in timeless perfection-or-imperfection to the world. Perhaps this is why we are so very self-critical when we waver and find our expression lacking in one way or another....

Thank you for your post, Katelyn. It's not often that I enjoy reading blog posts of other writers; but I did enjoy yours, very much. And, please, feel free to stay in touch. We writers sometimes need the support of each other in this and other ways. XXX

Written by
Jack Scullin