Writing is a skill that requires far more than a facility with words. To be successful, a writer must also perform the duties of at least seven other occupations. Can you name them?
Unless you have the innate and undisciplined talent of Hubbell Gardner, the fictional character played by Robert Redford in 1973’s The Way We Were, writing is hard work. (For Hubbell, writing came easy “as ice cream.”)
When you stop to realize what’s required of a real-life writer, the task becomes even harder.
Putting the words together is only the beginning.
To infuse those words with meaning and insight and to get them into print takes the skill, intelligence, and know-how drawn from seven different professions.
Here they are:
3. Social Worker
6. Marketing Expert
7. Advertising Huckster
And here’s what each one brings to the table and why all of them must [CONTINUED] be part of the writer’s makeup.
This is listed first for a reason. The other six pale in comparison.
It’s the artist inside you that fuels your imagination and gives you vision, awakening your instincts, sharpening your perspective, and shaping your perceptions.
As an artist, you march to a different drummer, hear songs that the whole world isn’t singing, and see what few others can.
If you are not first and foremost an artist, you are not a writer.
The measure of a psychologist is not in his ability to analyze but in his keenness at listening. He hears both the spoken and the unspoken words. He recognizes the issues, whether articulated or sidestepped, that cause pain and guilt.
Without the psychologist’s insight, we risk creating characters that are hollow and one-dimensional and sound patently phony.
Unlike the psychologist, social workers focus not exclusively on an individual’s problems but on those problems in the context of society’s ills. Social workers know the external forces that are often at the root of internal turmoil. They deal firsthand with issues that most of us only read about: poverty, racism, alcoholism, drug addiction, dysfunctional families, abortion.
They are advocates of change but doomed to a pattern of repetition.
For a writer, the social worker inside us offsets and complements the artist’s world of fantasy and dreams. Social workers pop the artist’s balloon with grit and grime.
Unlike social workers, who encounter the grit and grime in their everyday dealings, cops are paid to ferret it out, to go searching for it. They confront the people who fell through the cracks, who not only escaped the attention of social workers but who stomped on all the other safeguards meant to protect the rest of us.
Cops are often cynical, devoid of any hope that the low-life criminals they meet can ever be reformed or would even be worth the effort. They sometimes become what they combat, people who resort to violence upon little or no provocation.
For a writer, cops are the antidote to seeing the world in shades of gray. They see it in high-contrast blacks and whites, although more of the former than the latter.
No matter what form of law an attorney practices, he is a hired gun, someone whose job it is to paint a lop-sided picture, to emphasize the truth when it benefits his client and to disguise and bury it when it doesn’t.
Lawyers are masters of manipulation, at making black appear white and vice versa.
Their arsenal is not truth but facts. In the courtroom, they know the answer to a question before they ask it; if not, they won’t ask.
They can demolish a defense or a contrary view because they know all the details of their opponent’s argument.
And therein lies the benefit to a writer. Lawyers know both sides of an argument and press forward with their version of it. Deception might pour out of their mouths, but they quickly squelch it when it comes from an adversary.
Like a lawyer, writers have to be flexible enough to check their consciences at the door and champion an issue one day and fight it the next.
Take a lawyer out of the courtroom and trade in a jury for the general population, and you’ve got the makings of a marketing expert.
These people go lawyers one better. They not only are masters of manipulation and deception, they are the pied pipers of motivation.
If your manuscript stinks, marketing experts are the go-to people. Your manuscript will still stink, of course, but nobody will notice. In fact, everyone will flock to buy it.
If you can think like a marketing expert, your success is virtually guaranteed.
Have you ever seen a movie that failed to live up to the advance hype? Of course you have. You can thank an advertising huckster.
Advertising hucksters take a little from all the other six categories. They are dreamers, but they dream in green; not environmental friendly green, but currency green.
They recognize the same realities and truths as the others, but they know how to dismiss, underplay, disguise, sidestep, and pervert what won’t sell or won’t push the right buttons.
Whatever the marketing expert inside you has done to get your book on the shelf, the advertising huckster will do more.
So there you have it. Seven Faces. Seven Masks. Seven Identities. Seven Jobs.
Wear each of them at the right time and at the right place, and seven will be your lucky number.