When I’m not writing poems and essays, I’m writing marketing content; that’s my day job. For the past 11 years, I’ve been a freelance consultant paid to align business and consumer interests through strategic communications. I’ve historically held these two types of writing (literary vs. business) as separate-but-equal, with this formula as my benchmark: I write for money by day, for love by night.
My online platforms represent this great divide; I have one website for my business, and one for my creative writing life. This has mostly served me well. Clients want to know who my other clients are and what my track record is working for businesses in similar industries; they’re not concerned with where my next reading will be. And someone who wants to buy my poetry book doesn’t necessarily have an interest in learning about how I translate strategic objectives into results.
And yet, something has been happening in the past few years to build a bridge between the two. As I’ve taken myself more seriously as a poet, I’ve discovered more and more ways to do poetry-related work that contributes toward my income. Through teaching Poetry for the People, providing individualized coaching for writers, and working on my book, Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read & Write Poetry, my days and nights have become a far more integrated mix of income-generating work that is creative, strategic and even poetic.
And as I stop holding the types of work I do as separate, so do the people around me. For example, my marketing clients, upon learning of my book, have expressed curiosity about how my poetic expertise might translate to doing more innovative campaigns for them. I’m even exploring with a few the possibility of teaching their internal writing teams how to liven up their language.
At the same time, I’ve been recruited to flex my marketing muscles through opportunities such as the reading series I host at Barnes & Noble and my role on the VoiceCatcher editorial collective marketing team. In short, I am finding that there are far fewer barriers between corporate communications and creative writing than I had originally imagined.
It’s hard to say which comes first: the integrated career or the integrated sense of identity. But what I do know is that many of the distinctions we make and live by are not absolutes. A life of writing can be as expansive as we imagine it to be. Writing for love and writing for money are both equally possible.
Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. In 2006, she won first prize in the Ghost Road Press annual poetry contest. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University where she was awarded a New York Times Foundation fellowship. Sage teaches Poetry for the People.