Content Crafters is an interview series where we de-construct the tools, tips, and tactics that top bloggers use to get so much work done. you’ll walk away in mere minutes with actionable takeaways you can try out right away. Let’s dive in!
Cecelia May Thorn is a freelance writer who sold cannabis professionally for 10 years.
She was the first state-licensed wholesale marijuana broker in Colorado, which she’s pretty sure made her the first official weed broker in America. She’s also worked as an award-winning journalist and a “medicated yoga” teacher (which, in the early days of dispensaries, was totally a real thing).
She writes at Heavy.
How did you get into content and journalism? What’s your origin story?
I started writing professionally when I was 22. Ten years later, my writing finally started paying the bills. You could say I just quit my side hustle last year. But it wasn’t really a side hustle: I sold weed for a living for 10 years. The hustle was pretty central.
I never set out to be a large-scale weed dealer. I was trying to make a living that would allow me to practice my writing. I started a weed business; things escalated; I accidentally became the first legal wholesale cannabis broker in America.
One day, after driving around Colorado with trash bags of weed and backpacks of cash, I wrote a brief letter to my local newspaper. When the editors called me, I thought it was my big break. I arrived at the newsroom wearing my nicest shirt, prepared to dazzle them with my hidden writing talent. It turned out they just wanted to interview me about being a legal weed dealer.
I stonewalled until they let me write a story about marijuana taxation instead. Eventually, the editor agreed to mentor me. I reported on Colorado’s oil and gas industry, and even won a journalism award. But journalism awards don’t pay the bills. The hustle continued.
Is there anything particular to your background, personality or skill set that you believe makes you a great content writer?
When I was a kid, I lost a good chunk of my hearing. When you’re hearing impaired, you pay close attention to subtle actions, facial expressions, imperceptible movements. You’re looking for clues, any clues, to help decipher the world around you.
You seize on words — when you can grasp them. But too often, they dissolve into a maze of other sounds and background noise. So you hunt for meaning.
This prepares you to use words with all your might — but also to look for something moving beneath them.
How did you pick your niche? What got you interested in the cannabis industry?
I ask myself this question all the time. Did I choose this plant, or did this plant choose me?
In 2009, I was applying to every job listing I could find. (Rent was due; I was broke.) I noticed a mysterious Craigslist ad: “Herbal Business Website Seeks Writer.”
The herbal business turned out to be a soon-to-open dispensary. When the owners discovered how broke I was, they offered me a position as a budtender. This coincidence sparked my entire cannabis career.
How do you keep your skills sharp and continue learning? What’s your process for continual improvement with regard to writing, content marketing, SEO, or other digital topics?
Everyone probably knows this already, but the best thing you can do to be a better writer is be a better reader.
Read widely, read avidly, read with lust and fascination. Admire other writers. Delve into their art. But don’t just read anything: choose your reading carefully. Find the voices and sentences that keep ringing in your ears. Then find your own.
Today, you can’t expect anyone to read your writing unless you embrace content marketing and SEO. I’m extremely fortunate to work with amazing people at heavy.com. I’m learning new things every day. I love how SEO is its own kind of artistry.
What’s your research process like when it comes to writing a new piece? How do you come up with the topic, and what’s your process like up to publication?
Today, I mostly write about cannabis products at heavy.com, where my topic selection is rooted in SEO and keyword research.
But when I worked as an enterprise journalist, I looked for topics that other people wanted to remain hidden. For example, I explored how the oil and gas industry manipulates Colorado elections.
Being a cannabis content writer is a lot less stressful. Nobody is going to threaten to sue me for saying that their CBD oil is fantastic.
What’s your advice for an ambitious junior content marketer/writer looking to grow their career?
All your dreams may not come true overnight. And that’s okay.
Enjoy the detours — even the detours that last a decade. You aren’t wasting time. Maybe you’re assembling your life so you’ll finally have time to think deeply and write authentically. Maybe you’re becoming the person who will write your best work.
I’m glad publishers ignored me when I was 22. I was an idiot. I had so much more to learn. (I still do.)
We become ourselves during our life, our journey, our work. The struggle makes us. So maybe you’re stuck in a job that isn’t technically “creative.” Maybe you have to hustle — even if you’re not a hustler at heart.
And that’s okay. You’re learning about people, about the world. The context you soak up now will inform your future work. In every piece of authentic writing, the writer’s presence can be felt — often in what they leave unsaid.
So whatever you’re doing now, it’s all part of your writing. Because writing isn’t just about putting words on the page. It’s about putting yourself on the page. So start there, keep going, and enjoy the ride.
If you weren’t doing content/writing, what would you be doing?
I’d probably still be selling pounds. But today, that life looks pretty corporate, as the cannabis industry continues to look more like any other consumer product industry.
I thank my lucky stars that my writing pays my bills right now. Writers are free. Even if you write on a schedule, cranking out content from nine to five, the next word is always up to you.
Gimme three tips to improve my writing? Or rather, three tips anyone can use to write better.
Omit needless words, and tell the truth. Live like you write — and vice versa.
Christine Giraud is a Boston-based freelance writer and copy editor. She focuses primarily in the cannabis, health, and health technology niches.
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