The Writing Nobody Sees

Last week at a meeting of local entrepreneurs I described the type of writing I do as “unsexy.” I’ve spent much of my corporate life doing bureaucratic work: proposals, internal memos, executive correspondence, strategic communications, instructional design, training materials, event management, speech writing, business/marketing plans, government relations, process documentation, and other stuff that doesn’t have a broad outreach. It’s also often in a plain-language style rather than attention-grabbing, like marketing or advertising copy, though I’ve done some of that as well.

Internal writing is an acquired taste

The thing is, I enjoy what I do, and this sort of content is always needed in businesses large and small. A lot of the writing you do can be a function of interest and temperament. For example, Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate and How the World Sees You, has a dynamic, creative writing style designed to get attention. She wants to be out there wowing the world. I’m sure that many of my daily work assignments would bore her to tears. On the other hand, neither of us has had the inclination to write science textbooks or murder mystery novels (at least not yet).

Me, I am a big fan of helping establish systems–anything from a proposal-writing process to defining the fields that make up the Science Cheerleader database. Call it bureaucratic engineering or literary infrastructure building, whatever you like. And while I do write content that goes public (this blog, for instance), you’ll notice that, as an introvert, I’m usually not standing on a stage, speaking.

Sharing internal work with future employers can be challenging, but…

The biggest challenge with doing a lot of writing that “no one ever sees” (meaning work that’s not in the public domain) is that it can be difficult to assemble a portfolio or to point people to a site displaying your work. Don’t be dismayed. Assuming you’re not writing for a three-letter agency somewhere in the military or intelligence establishment, you should be able to get permission to share some of your stuff outside the office. And if you can’t, you can always ask for a reference.

Still, just because much of my work is not in the public eye, that doesn’t make it any less important to my customers. Training needs to happen. Internal policies need to be communicated. Strategies and processes need to be articulated clearly. All of that work must be done well. It’s essential to building one’s reputation.

Bottom line for today: If you’re quite happy creating content that helps a business or other organization running, business and bureaucratic writing might be for you. It requires you to work with many individuals and to understand how things work. You get the opportunity to build a network and to learn on a daily basis, which makes you smarter in the long run. And as one of my friends likes to to say, “Smart is sexy!”

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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