I remember back in fifth grade when we had to write short stories for class. Our teacher would make each of us go up to the front and read our stories out loud, word for word, for everyone else to hear. Others dreaded this exercise and hated the thought of having to share their intimate creations out loud, let alone write them down. I, on the other hand, took delight in it. I recall one particularly gory story I wrote about a young knight trying to avenge the death of his mentor, Sir Albatross, who had been beheaded by an evil ruler and sent his butchered remains to the rest of the knights as a warning. Even as a kid, I remember being impressed with what I wrote. Already I could tell that writing can change people; it can influence what we think and how we feel.

I still feel that writing has the power to do that. Sadly, the process isn’t as effortless or nearly as enjoyable as it used to be for 11 year old me, especially when I’m up after midnight banging out blog posts for my business after a week of zero sales. What I used to find so effortless, exciting, and fun has become a roadblock. Worse, it’s become a source of resentment. But what if I could become a better, more confident, happier writer? How would that change my business and my life?

I’ve been following this website called Men With Pens for the past two years and have subscribed to all their newsletters. James Chartrand, the mastermind behind the Men With Pens website, offers an online writing course called Damn Fine Words which I’ve read plenty of damn fine things about. I found out that James is hosting a writing contest to win a free scholarship to her course. All you have to do is write about how DFW could help you. Simple, right?

I want to tell their stories and to educate the masses, but I don’t have the tools or skills to create compelling content that influences people to take action.

First, there’s my business. I quit my corporate job and launched Cambio Market last year with my partner. Based in Toronto, Cambio Market is an online shop for socially responsible products which give back to a social cause. Eco-friendly greeting cards made by survivors of sex trafficking, jewelry made from upcycled T-shirts, bags handwoven by indigenous artisans – these are the sort of products you can find in our shop. We’ve invested plenty of time and money into building our business and it’s been a wonderful journey, but there are so many days where I just want to curl up into a ball and cry my soul out. You see, we have compelling stories and we have beautiful products – but none of it translates online. Our social media lacks real engagement. Our blog posts dissipate into the black hole of online space. Our website barely garners 40 visits a day. And don’t even get me started on our sales…

Yet when I’m in front of people at a local flea market and I tell them the stories of our products, people are floored. Their eyes light up and I feel an instant connection. They get it. They love the products, the story, and the impact. But how come this same connection isn’t happening online? Our website copy, blog, and social media aren’t terrible – but we’re lacking a real connection with our audience. Actually, we don’t even know who our audience is. We don’t know what to write about, how to write it, and how to reach the right people. If what I’ve read about DFW is true, this course could help us identify our ideal readers and understand how to genuinely connect with them. We could finally stop throwing things against the wall and hoping something sticks. With DFW, we could build real relationships with customers, grow our sales, help our artisan partners grow, and develop an engaged community of individuals who want to make a difference like we do.

I want that wash, rinse, repeat process that James has promised – that steady process that could help me bring the best part of me to life whenever I needed her.

I could also help myself. I have ideas in my head but I don’t know what to do with them. I try to write them down but I quickly become daunted by The Blank Page. I dream of writing for magazines and blogs on topics of sustainability, food, and culture (and make money while doing it), but I write too slowly and too hesitantly. Sometimes I get so engrossed in researching a topic that I amass mountains of information, only to abandon a post halfway when I become overwhelmed with the thoughts in my head. DFW could help me develop a process to organize all the ideas floating in my head and bring them to life down on paper in a way that’s fast, effective, and impactful. If I could do that, I would quit my minimum wage part-time job and write freelance about topics I actually care about.

Despite the hurdles, I actually do enjoy writing once I can get into the groove. Writing brings out the best part of me when I can do it well. At my best, I’m funny and courageous and compelling and informed. I’m inspired and inspiring. When I’m in the “zone”, I feel like my mind is clear and I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it. There is nothing like that sense of accomplishment at completing a blog post and seeing people share it. I want that more. I want more sales. I want to be able to tap into my best self when I want it, not when the wind happens to blow in that direction. I would have the confidence to start a lifestyle blog and talk about my experience being a woman of colour and an entrepreneur.  I want that wash, rinse, repeat process that James has promised – that steady process that could help me bring the best part of me to life whenever I needed her.

So how could Damn Fine Words help me? It’s about more than just making me a better writer.

Damn Fine Words could make me a happier and better person.


This post is an entry into the Damn Fine Words Writing Contest hosted by James Chartrand of Men With Pens. Learn more at www.menwithpens.ca

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2 thoughts on “How Becoming A Better Writer Could Change My Life: A Post About Damn Fine Words

  1. Gelaine, congratulations on winning the Damn Fine Words contest! And ever bigger kudos to starting your own business. I am in the process of quitting my job now to pursue my full time love and you are an inspiration.

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Janet! I didn’t have a chance to read your entry, but I did go through some of the other entries and was so impressed with the quality of everyone’s writing. If yours is like the posts I read, I think success is right around the corner for you 🙂 Quitting your job is a tough decision to make, but SO rewarding. Best of luck to you! 🙂

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