Have You Ever Published Embarrassing Writing?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I was flipping through a trade magazine and saw an article about what to do if you’ve published something embarrassing. Not necessarily something personal, per se, but more like the clips you wrote when you were first starting out that linger out there in cyberspace. On a whim, I decided to google myself and see what turned up.

First of all, if you google me, my clips are intermingled with another Renee Roberson who also happens to be a pastor. That could get interesting if someone stumbled onto her blog instead of mine. When I was first starting out as a freelancer, I wrote a lot of parenting articles for the Walt Disney Internet Group, as my kids were still tiny. I still come across articles that were obviously sold to other blogs and websites over time. For example, I found an article on when you can determine a baby’s eye color on Babble. I barely remember writing that one. Instead of being in an article format, snippets of the article ran as captions underneath stock photos—to make for a quicker read, I guess. You can tell I was early in my writing career because there was a mention of me also writing for the fan magazine of singer Tori Amos, which was a volunteer gig. I guess I didn't have a lot of paying gigs at the time!

I also wrote some articles for those content mills writers are constantly being warned about. I’m pretty sure I wrote those articles for free because I was trying to get clips, so there have to be some pretty embarrassing pieces of work out there. Yahoo! actually bought one of those mills I wrote for, but I don’t think an article I wrote about a local pet bed and breakfast will show up on their site anytime soon. Another site I wrote for (for payment) ended up being acquired by a larger content service so a few of my articles popped up on a website I had never heard of.

None of these articles were humiliating or anything, but the topics did make me laugh a little bit. (How many calories are in wine, beer, and mixed drinks? What is your breakfast personality type? And did anyone really care if I reviewed a Tori Amos concert for a content mill?)

As the article I was reading on this topic suggested, most writers have to start out somewhere, and for most of us, that was writing for “click bait” sites. For me, I found I really had to dig around to find any of these articles, so it doesn’t really concern me. I don't think it will scare off any future editors or employers. These aren’t the clips I showcase on my blog or add to my resume. They will sink into oblivion sooner or later.

We won't talk about the cheesy poems the student government asked me to write for the prom booklets in high school. That's for another day.

I’m curious if you have any articles/essays/stories you’ve come across from the early stages of your writing career that make you cringe now? I'd love to hear your stories!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who writes for regional and local lifestyle and parenting magazines.


Sioux Roslawski said...

I did some "exciting" writing for some HVAC companies--stuff about ducts, stuff about solar panels, etc.--that I wrote for literally pennies.

I don't think anyone will ever unearth those. And if they do, I don't have a byline.

Mary Horner said...

I was a ghost writer for a rental car agency, but like Sioux, no name. I got my start before the internet was so prevalent, so some of my early articles that appeared in local newspapers probably won't be found on the internet, which isn't a bad thing!

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