Growing up, writing was always something I did on the side. It was what I did after I finished my assignments for school, sent out job applications, and  sat through a lecture.

When I started working, writing was what I did on my commute to my 9-to-5, tapping away at a blog post before I spent the rest of my working hours tapping away at emails.

Somehow, I believed that being a project manager or working at a tech company was more valuable than becoming a writer with an email list.

I mean, a project manager had tangible, hard skills that translated to real-world experiences. And as a writer, I was just, well, writing about stuff.

Somehow I believed that being a creative meant creating art that no one but she understood, art that needed acquired taste to admire, like classical music, paintings, poems, or theatre.

And then trying to swindle rich, status-hungry men and women to buy it.  

Thank goodness that that didn’t stop me from writing. And after publishing online for over 5 years now, here’s what I learned.

What a Writer Does

Value is in the eyes of the beholder. And for a writer, that beholder is my audience

A writer is someone who learns about the world, tries to figure out their corner of it, then uses words to share what they learned.  

Poets, playwrights, fiction and non-fiction authors, bloggers, screenwriters, and Twitter influencers all do this.

And all creatives learn and share with the world, just with different vehicles whether they’re…

What We Get Paid to Do

A writer is someone who learns about the world, tries to figure out their corner of it, then uses words to share what they learned.  

As creatives, our jobs might not be as tangible (read: explainable) as that of accountants, business analysts, growth marketers, project coordinators, or product marketers (all jobs I’ve held in the past while writing on the side, btw).

But if we judge our work’s value by the impact we have on the world instead of our paycheck or how easy it is for our parents to explain what we do to their friends, then being a creative with an audience is equally as valuable as any of these roles.

Take professional athletes, for example.

  • What value do they bring to the world beyond touchdowns, goals, and world records?
  • What makes those feats so valuable that they get paid anywhere between hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to do their thing?

Pro athletes are valuable to certain people because they bring inspiration to folks who have the physical talent to go pro, and vicarious living for folks who wished they did.

Athletes bring hope to kids who never felt smart enough in the classroom, that at least they can dominate at recess.

And they bring boatloads of ticket sales to whoever owns the rights to showcase their talent, inspiration, and influence on the field, the court, the mat, or the pool.

Professional athletes bring enough value to enough people. It just so happens that those people can pay them mind-boggling amounts of money.

But here’s the catch.

Despite sports’ fanbase, there are many folks in the world have never seen an NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, Wimbledon, or World Cup game, whether in-person, on their TV, or online.

And nor do they want to.

These people just don’t find the experience of watching sweaty people run around chasing after a bouncing object interesting or valuable.

Similarly, much of my experiences won’t resonate with most of the seven billion people in the world (although having my roots in two continents — Asia and North America — certainly casts a wide net).

This means that most of my writing won’t be helpful or even understandable to many people who have different problems in life or who speak a different language.

But that’s OK.

Value is in the eyes of the beholder. And for a writer, that beholder is my audience — the people who gave me their email addresses and said yes to learning from my life through my words.

And my job is to help them with what I can offer: my experience and my writing.

As creatives, our job is to live our lives — which is all about conquering fear and solving problems — then to share what we learn with folks who have the same problems.

To find those who resonate with our experiences and bring value to those who find our work valuable.