I always knew, even as a little girl, that I wasn’t particularly special. Despite my being an only child (many of whom *think* they are more special than they are), I knew it was only my parents who thought I was a “precious little snowflake.” But the fact of the matter is, I’m not good at much. I’m not saying this for attention—I’m just realistic. Some people are great at one or two things—others are great at many things. I’ve come to realize that no matter how hard I try, I am just never going to be all that spectacular at anything. And that’s okay. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with just being average. I’ve learned to accept it.
But I’ve always thought myself to be a good writer. I love to write, and it’s one of my passions. Do I think I’m the best writer in the world? Hardly. But I like to think I have somewhat of a knack for it. I get complemented on it often. I especially enjoy writing satirical pieces, but I like to think I’m decent at all forms of writing.
Then I started working for an advertising agency. And all that changed. Now, I think I’m just not as good a writer as I thought I was.
2015 was a rough year in many ways. My mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly, and she was a saint of a woman whom many people miss terribly every day. I also got diagnosed with cancer, and while it’s a very treatable form, there is a high recurrence rate, so it is always on my radar. And it makes me feel tired—all the time. Not “I only got 4 hours of sleep last night” tired. Like, literally—every waking minute of every day I spend in complete exhaustion.
My cancer forced me to only be able to work part-time, especially since I am going to grad school. As a result, money is very tight. Granted, not tight enough for me to skip the yearly winter vacation, but tight enough to have me somewhat worried. So, I work about 25 hours a week at the agency and pick up off jobs here and there to supplement my income. My husband works full-time as a teacher, which is great and he is incredibly good at it—but he’s not exactly a Wall Street stockbroker, so we’re hardly rich.
So, let’s just say I’m a bit…sensitive right now, with all that has happened this past year. And my increased sensitivity may have me more emotional than normal. And writing is one way I handle it, so here I am.
Note: wine is another, less healthy way I handle it.
When I started this agency job almost a month ago, I thought I’d be great at it. I literally write all day. I do nothing else. We have clients who need web content, or social media/blog management—and that’s what I do. In theory, it’s awesome. But my work gets butchered. Often.
Now, I’m okay with constructive criticism, especially when it comes to my writing. I want to write better. I want the feedback. But holy shit—I’m not so bad that you have to tear it apart. I very rarely make a typo or a grammatical error, and I have a pretty good understanding of tone and knowing one’s audience—you know, the basics.
But here’s the thing. Everyone has a writing style. And everyone’s writing style is unique to them. As a writer, I have learned to adjust it somewhat, so you might be able to say I have several writing “styles.” And I’ve tried them ALL at this place. And they get ripped a new asshole half the time I submit something to my manager.
What I don’t understand is this: I submitted several writing samples when I interviewed for the position, from grad papers to some of the Air Force articles I wrote back in the day. I wanted them to see my different writing styles. I also had to take a writing “test,” which consisted of answering an unreasonable number of questions (and it was timed) along the lines of, “Who do you idolize?” or “Write a blog post about Yummy Cakes Bakery.” Apparently, I did well at it. So they knew what they were getting into when they hired me. I hate surprises, so I am who I am. There is no mystery with me. What you see is what you get.
Now, they are acting as if nearly everything I write is pure and utter shit.
Dearest manager, if you want every piece to be in YOUR writing style, well—you have to write it. I’m not trying to be an asshole when I say that, but I am not you. I am my own person and I have my own style. You apparently liked it, which is why you hired me. So stop acting like it’s not what you want now. And if it ISN’T what you want, you need to give me some feedback on what’s wrong with it. You can’t just say, “Do this over.” or “I don’t like it.” How the fuck is THAT going to help me, and how the hell is it even going to help YOU to ultimately get whatever it is you’re looking for? I’ve asked for specific criticism, only to get the vague “it just sucks” kind of attitude.
And then, the other half of the time, they love what I do. There’s very little middle ground. And it’s not like I am just good at press releases and blog posts and bad at web content. Their dislike for my writing is all over the place, so I never really seem to know if something I submit is going to be a home run or an epic fail.
I’m not that smart, but I’m definitely not stupid, either. I’ll do my best to deliver what you ask for, but I can’t do that until you tell me what you want. If you take five fucking minutes to explain what you’re looking for in a piece, I’m going to give it to you. That, and I’ve only been there less than a month (part time)–give me a break. I’m sorry I don’t know every single one of your clients and what they want by now.
So, to all those bosses or managers out there, TELL THEM what you want. Be specific. People aren’t mind-readers. I repeat: PEOPLE AREN’T MIND-READERS. Something may seem obvious to you, but it may not be obvious to your employees. Employees enjoy working for managers who take just a small bit of time to give them a little guidance. People generally WANT to do a good job, and they also generally don’t want to have to do things over again because they had to guess at whatever the hell it was you were looking for. So if you’re a manager and you haven’t done this already, work on your communication, and especially your specification skills. The more clearly you communicate with your workers, the better of a job they are going to do. Period.
And I’ve learned something by this, too…that I should probably work for myself. Because at least I know what’s going on in my own head. Most of the time.