Although I have been writing my whole life, I started writing professionally as a development coordinator for a small non-profit. I loved writing grant applications and narrative reports to donors because they used stories to impact the life of an organization in a very direct and tangible way. But I also longed to write more creative content so that I could play a more active role in determining what stories to tell, and how to tell them. I decided to venture beyond grants (although I still write grants!) into other types of content creation, an endeavor that became Jiri Creative.
When I first took the leap into the online content creation, I was taken aback – not in a good way. The internet is full of, well, junk. As a regular practitioner of meditation, I noticed my mind pulled in a million directions. I felt frustrated at the thought that, perhaps, I couldn't tell the stories I wanted to without compromising the quality of my writing and becoming a subpar content churning machine. After all, I am a quiet person who, particularly in group settings, only speaks when I have something valuable to share. In the world of content creation and content marketing, where did I fit in?
Last year, I took part in a workshop at 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. 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. As an online consumer of goods, services, and information, I strive to choose the content I engage with mindfully. Shouldn’t I take the same approach as the creator of that information? When I write, I try to create what I call "honest content". Beyond aiming for my writing to comply with Google's Panda algorithm, which favors high-quality content, honest content includes the following elements*:
As a storyteller and writer, I hold the value of honest content closely, ensuring that my work 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 the sum of our experiences 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 into privilege, a financial and socioeconomic position that has enabled me to launch a writing business, and to be selective about the work I take 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.