Although I have been writing my whole life, my professional writing career started as a development coordinator for a small non-profit. I loved writing grants and narrative reports because they use stories to impact the life of an organization in a very direct and tangible way. But I also longed to write content that was more creative so that I could play a more active role in determining what stories to tell and how. I decided to venture beyond grants into other types of content creation, an endeavor that became Jiri Creative.
When I first took the leap into the world of content creation which, in 2018, lives mostly on the internet, I was taken aback – not in a good way. The internet is crowded and full of, well, junk! As a regular practitioner of meditation, I quickly became aware that my mind was being pulled in a million directions. As a writer, I was struck by a perceived pressure to “get on the content train” and mechanically churn out meaningless words. I know how modern marketing works. I understand the value in this type of content creation which serves a very specific purpose, often to market a product or service. But I realized quickly that I belong elsewhere.
Yes, I am, and have always been, a storyteller, but I am also an introvert. A quiet person who, particularly in group settings, only speaks when I have something valuable to share.
I recently participated in a meditation workshop led by teachers from the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. In groups of three, we conducted a mindful listening and sharing exercise, in which we took turns talking for three minutes about an experience we’ve had, while the other group members listened without responding. In between each person’s turn to speak, we paused to become aware of our bodies in that particular moment. After we completed the exercise, the entire room joined together to reflect. I reflected that, when given the opportunity to be deeply, mindfully listened to, I became aware of the value of each word I was saying. As I shared my experience with two other people, I spoke slowly, pausing multiple times and questioning the benefit and value of every word I chose to speak.
I approach my writing similarly. I refuse to be a part of the content-churning machine, pushing words into the abyss of the internet for them to sit there, waiting as clickbait for a mindless web-wonderer. As a consumer of information, I strive to be mindful in what I spend my precious time reading. Shouldn’t I take the same approach as a producer of that information? Therefore, I pledge, on this sunny Philadelphia morning, to create what I will call “honest content”. Honest content is writing that includes at least one of the following elements*:
As a storyteller and writer, I hold the value of honest content closely, ensuring that everything I work on falls within this definition. I want the words I put on paper to matter. I want to consider the value of each word: what impact will it have on its intended audience? What feelings will it evoke? Joy? Pain? Excitement? The stories we tell are nothing more than a sharing of the experiences we have as humans, of the actions we take as individuals, organizations, and communities with the goal of building the world we want to see. The words we use to describe those actions should be crafted with the same goal in mind.
*A note on privilege: I was born a white, cisgender woman, to upper middle class, educated parents who are citizens of the United States. As a result of those fortunate circumstances I received a stellar education and completed two university degrees without accruing debt. I happen to have met a wonderful man with a similar upbringing to mine. This financial and socioeconomic position has not only enabled me to launch a freelance writing business, but also to be selective and thoughtful in the type of work the business takes on. I fully acknowledge that not everyone is able to make those choices. More specifically, I am aware that not every writer is free to write content of value and from the heart. Because I do have that privilege, though, I feel I must use it to create good in the world. To me that means doing my part to break down oppressive and unjust systems that perpetuate the reality in which another person is afforded different opportunities simply because they were born a different color or in a different place.