A Personal Lesson on Creative Control

A Personal Lesson on Creative Control

5184 3456 Jan Natividad

Recently, I was accepted to become a contributor for Elite Daily. I was super excited. This is a really big online publication. Most people my age (it’s targeted towards Millennials) have been on the website, liked or shared an article, or at least heard of it. The website has a lot of clout, which can help get my name out there. What I didn’t think about was that Elite Daily, like any other online publication, is a business.

The first article I submitted was a simple piece about questions you can ask when your conversation with someone is struggling. It was a quick piece that I wrote in a few hours as I was itching to get something up on Elite Daily. It was a “spin-off” of a piece I wrote for my blog on Medium. In the article, I emphasized that the questions can be used in any situation wherein conversations tend to struggle: first dates, acquaintances, someone you don’t particularly like, etc.

Within a few days, they accepted my article and sent it out to an editor to be edited and published. I was ecstatic. What I didn’t realize was that their primary goal with any article is the same: getting clicks. The way Elite Daily works is once I submit an article and it’s accepted, I relinquish the rights to the article. They can change it any way they want. If I don’t like the final product, I can’t do anything about it. I have no way to remove it from the website.

My original title was simple, but still (I thought) clickbait-worthy: 4 Questions to Ask When You Feel Your Conversation Struggling. This article was meant for a young professional crowd, so I kept a tame title. When I got the email that my article was published, I saw the new title: 4 Questions You Can Ask to Bring a Failing Tinder Date Back From the Dead.

Suffice it to say, I was devastated.

As a businessperson, I completely understand and respect the change they made. There’s a reason why Elite Daily has become so popular – they understand their audience. When I was an editor for The City Scavenger, I did the same thing with other people’s articles. I edited content to make them more appealing to our target audience. As the editor, I was the expert on the tone and voice of the blog that most appeals to our audience. I made sure everything that gets published is effective at achieving our goal.

However, as a writer and *artiste*, I felt cheap. I write in a multitude of voices and topics, but anything Tinder-related definitely isn’t one of them. I didn’t want to be known as a relationship guru. It was completely off-brand for me. Additionally, as someone who writes for businesses, the connection with Tinder concerned me as it could signal “unprofessional” to some people’s eyes. I didn’t want my name on that article at all.

Thankfully, the rest of the article stayed pretty much the same. Although some things were removed and others were added, the biggest change they made to the body of the article was making almost every sentence a separate paragraph. They mentioned in the style guide that they like a lot of white space. They weren’t kidding. Although this is strange formatting to me, I was completely fine with what they changed.

Currently, that article has over 100 Facebook and social media likes/shares. This is one of the highest, if not the highest, amount of recognition any of my writing has ever gotten. Yet, I’m still ashamed to put this piece on my portfolio.

Sadly, since I’ve relinquished my rights to the article, there’s nothing I can do about it. This is just another lesson learned – the Internet can be a scary place. Thankfully, this is one situation where no one got hurt. This article will always be online with my name on it, but I just won’t flaunt it. Despite the recognition, it just doesn’t go with my personal and business brand. I can’t put it in my portfolio. However, depending on the client, I can definitely use it as an example of my ability to write highly shareable and potentially viral stuff.

With that being said, will I continue submitting articles to Elite Daily? Hell yes. I consider myself an artist, but I’m also a rational businessman. My writing can get a lot of reach on Elite Daily. Plus, they pretty much kept the body of my article the same. Even though formatting and other small changes were made, I can still recognize that I wrote the article. In the future, I’ll just be more cognizant of the fact that they do edit to increase the possibility of clicks. I definitely won’t be as surprised as I was the first time.

Photo by Alex Jones on Unsplash.

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