Does Working as a Content Monkey Stifle Your Creativity?

For starters, some of you may be wondering what constitutes a “content monkey.” Its meaning is similar to that of a “code monkey,” if you are familiar with that term. As a freelance writer, the only way to make decent money is by churning out article after article. In this world, your words are used for content that your client posts somewhere on the web – or, if you’re lucky, a newspaper or magazine. Our job is to research and write about whatever topic your client has in mind; there is little to no creative process involved. If your days and nights of freelance writing consist of following a client’s instructions while composing text after text… you have probably morphed into a content monkey. I doubt that anyone who has ever wanted to become a writer aspires to write for others as their lifelong career; yet, this is how many of us get our start and pay our dues. The question now becomes can we, as writers, be satisfied by only writing for others?

content (?) monkey

The most important aspect to the writing process is creativity. How else can you come up with clever topics, witty yet poignant sentences and ultimately a piece of literature that captures the attention of others? However, just like a muscle needs to be worked out to stay in shape, so does the creative process of an author. One must practice. One must write ideas down on paper, only to crumple them up and start over. One must come up with new and innovative material. But, if all we do is write for others, how are we supposed to exercise our creativity? While one might assume that any kind of writing helps you to improve, I have to wonder if being a content monkey doesn’t interfere with our creative processes.

Unlike writing professional articles, which adhere to strict grammatical and style guidelines, writing creatively gives you the opportunity to throw out everything you ever learned and write how you want. Creative writers have to learn to dismiss these rules, writing from their heart instead of their heads — or, if you’d prefer, writing from their right brain as opposed to their left. Unfortunately, after sticking to a set of rules for so long, it’s hard to escape them. Even while I’m trying to do some creative writing, the rules are right there, appealing to the logic center of my brain and putting a halt in my creative process.

I’m not dismissing the perks of being a freelance writer. I think that every writer should strive to become a “renaissance” writer who is capable of producing any type of text required: news articles, short stories, instruction manuals, poetry, romantic copy, advertisements, website content or a novel, for example.

So, how does a writer stop from being cornered by writing manuals and grammar books? I don’t have a solid answer to that question; part of the reason I decided to write on this topic was to explore the idea more, while hoping for some thoughtful feedback from other writers. For me, I try to stay in touch with my creative side by writing blogs – although I still feel pressure to write professionally – and by coming up with ideas for stories. Don’t let this post mislead you; despite my concerns, I still love being a freelance writer. I wouldn’t change a thing… well, except maybe the pay, but that will increase with time (one can hope!)

In my next post, I am planning to talk about the life of the freelance writer in more detail, including ways to start your own freelance writing career and useful tools of the trade. 

Until then…

jt

8 thoughts on “Does Working as a Content Monkey Stifle Your Creativity?

  1. Oh an in response to your post, I realized a while back that I loved to write, but the odds of becoming a successful and financially stable fiction writer are only slightly better than those of me becoming a starting QB in the NFL. I still enjoy writing fiction, but I enjoy having money in the bank as more. I don’t mind writing content for others, as long as the pay is good. It can get mind numbing but so can any job, and that is what writing it. It is a job. Fortunately, I can take a break whenever I want. I can take multiple days off in the middle of the week to work on other projects. Most people cannot just skip town when their jobs are weighing them down. I can. For that, I’m thankful.

  2. Ohai!

    Frankly, I don’t mind being (or being called) a content monkey. It pays the bills, and it doesn’t nearly stiffle creativity as you might think. My job is to take my ten or twenty clients, and produce a good solid blog post for them once a week. I take the photos, and I usually set the agenda.

    Oh sure, one of my barista’s might ask me to post on Valle Centrale in Costa Rica, but for me, those kinds of posts are fun to research and write. Oh sure, it gets hard to push through on the novel sometimes, but c’est la vie, eh?

    1. You seem like you are much further along in your writing career than me. I have yet to begin my novel, most likely out of fear. I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to writing, and with novels it’s usually best to throw those rules out the window before preceding outside to beat them with a baseball bat.

      The site for which I do my freelance work isn’t full of requests for interesting or informative articles; instead, half of the articles are all about SEO and incorporating keywords. I really hate those articles. I guess my main complaint about being a “content monkey” is that these AP Styleguide rules are stuck in my head and I can’t seem to think outside of the box like I used to. Does that make sense? I know that I need to flex my creative writing muscle more often, but it’s hard when writing is your only income. One day… one day I will be able to write for myself and only myself. That’s the plan.

      May I ask how you stumbled across my site? 🙂 Thanks for the comment!!

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