I ran into an old college professor of mine this morning at a coffee shop and, after I told him what I do, he asked me what a blog is. So, I took the time to explain to him what blogs do, what I write about, and why people hire me.
Now, I’ve had these kinds of conversations before. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t always know the answer to the question of what I do for a living. Sometimes I tell people I’m a ghostwriter, or a content writer, or a guy who writes blogs, articles, and books about the law. Most of the time, I simply tell people I’m a writer.
But regardless of my answer, people always ask me follow up questions about what I do. I think part of this is because not many of the people I meet have ever known someone who is a writer. I participate in a lot of writers groups, and many of the people I know who call themselves writers are retired, or have full-time jobs that have nothing to do with writing. (I think many of the people who ask me about my job have had a similar experience.)
The reason I like explaining what I do to people like my former college professor is because it makes me think about why my clients hire me to ghostwrite their blogs for them. And I think I know the answer.
When it comes down to it, all of us have a finite amount of time to devote to our jobs, our lives, and our passions. I know a lot of lawyers who love the feeling of going into a courtroom. I know lawyers who love doing research or writing contracts. But, when it comes time to explaining what they do to others who don’t have a background in the law, a lot of lawyers don’t like doing it.
It’s all about time. Anyone in a profession, anyone who spends time learning and devoting themselves to acquiring expertise and experience, necessarily becomes attuned to the language of that profession. You learn to talk as others in the field talk. You learn to think about the things that your colleagues are thinking about, and to focus on the details you need to know to do your job well.
On the other hand, you don’t necessarily learn to relate to those outside of your field. When you focus on becoming an expert you necessarily self-isolate yourself from the broader community. You spend less time speaking to others outside of your field, or outside of your office, and develop a very specific set of skills and tools that help you become a more accomplished professional.
When my clients call me, they want someone who can explain the ideas and concepts they deal with on a day-to-day basis to those who don’t have the same background. They are essentially asking me to translate the important concepts they know their clients care about in a way that their clients can better understand. For people who spend every day of their professional lives enmeshed in the law, taking several steps back and learning to talk about the law in a way that the average high-school freshman might understand is, by itself, a daunting challenge.
That’s why they ask me to write their blogs for them.
So, now that I think about it, instead of calling myself a writer, I might start calling myself a translator.