“We don’t have a writer.”
Aren’t those the most depressing words? Right after “Spongebob from Marketing wrote this copy – could you fix it up? It shouldn’t take you that long.”
Writers are often the last resource recruited to an internal or agency creative team – why is that?
I have a theory: writers are seen as the lowest common or garden variety talent in any creative space. (Spoiler alert: we shouldn’t care that we’re seen that way.)
On the surface, our job is something everyone learns to do when they’re seven.
Everyone who gives us work can write (they write briefs, don’t they?)
Everyone who pays us can write (they send us emails, don’t they?)
Everyone uses words, but the heartbreaking thing (to me) is that most don’t care about them.
Everyone writes. But not everyone is a writer.
See, Thomas Mann gets it.
So why should the non-writers of the world respect writers as professionals, and pay us accordingly?
For the same reason we laugh at the first round of Idols auditions, and pay for the album of the winner. To be blunt: just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you can do it well. If you think writing is easy, you’re suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect. If you think writing every day makes you good at it, you’re forgetting that repetition doesn’t create improvement without constant conscious effort.
The word ‘respect’ seems dramatic, even dangerous when used in this context. You risk blistering many egos when you imply that people don’t communicate as well as they think they do. Writers can’t command respect easily in a professional space – especially not the introverted ones who don’t blitz every brainstorm with pithy one-liners. Our skills are so cerebral, they’re almost invisible. Respect is earned through showcasing that your writing delivers results – whether the result is getting someone to buy a product, or getting them to cry like squishy babies.
I’ve studied writing for the past nine years, and been a professional writer for three of those years. I could recount the many stories of people implying I’m an overpaid typist, but that would probably make me sound bitter. I’ll skip that step, and head straight to why it doesn’t matter.
I love words. Words give me the power to make something out of nothing. Words can confront a confusing or isolating emotion, give it a name, and share it with others. Words connect people. Words are also beautiful, whether spoken or written. To me, words have both intrinsic and extrinsic value.
Writing is my craft, and craft is a combination of love and discipline.
Without love, your writing can follow all the rules, and still seem more like a well-dressed mannequin than a real person. Without discipline, your writing is feral: emotionally draining and cumbersome despite the occasional flash of brilliance. Honing your craft means not only practicing every day, but remaining critical of your work, and creating processes that help you create consistently good work with minimal stress.
Every professional has stories of clients or co-workers misunderstanding their work, or disrespecting their craft. Hell, even doctors have to put up with people asking whether aromatherapy might work better than antibiotics.
I get to write every day. I get to tell moving stories, come up with insane ideas, and smuggle puns into content every single day. I get to do what I love, and if everyone else thinks I’m just here typing, that’s their business.