Writers have…a reputation.
Whether it is that they are closed-off and obsessed, or flighty and bohemian, or difficult and pedantic, most of us have some sort of mental image of what we think being a writer is like.
That’s probably because we either saw it in a television show or movie, or we might have the pleasure of knowing an actual real-live writer in our own lives.
And we’ve based our idea of what a writer might be on them, creating an archetype in our heads that we either adore or have come to loathe.
As someone who has both been a writer herself, but also worked with hundreds of writers over the course of her career, I managed to create some interesting characters in my own head.
One thing they all seem to have in common, both from an objective and subjective point-of-view, is that writers have a pretty thankless and taken-for-granted skill set.
Everyone fancies themselves a writer of sorts, as well they should if they are writing.
The devotion and talent behind a craftily written opus is truly a work of art; and unless a writer has managed to build some platform or fame, that work sometimes struggles in obscurity.
Still, these creative souls show up to the keyboard day after day, all hoping to one day pen the piece that will pluck them from the darkness and bring them to the light.
Don’t you think those folks deserve some extra love this week?
You know who they are.
Those writers who you follow everywhere. Of whom you devour every book, article, podcast, and newsletter they might put out.
Sure, you can add to their follower counts and occasionally comment on things with a “This is great” message, but there are some other ways things that you can do that writers will definitely notice and appreciate.
It’s no secret that money makes the world go round.
Writers make money when people pay them for their writing.
By making money, they are able to write more, cause they can take care of those pesky things like food and shelter.
So when they write a new book, launch a new product, create a new course, if you love them then you should support them – with your wallet.
Then take it a step further. Don’t leave them having to beg for your review.
Make it honest as well.
No one believes a 5-star review an hour after something goes live saying “This is amazing and will change your life. OMG this writer is my everything.”
But a serious review, that shows you’ve actually consumed the content and still would put your name and vouch on it, will go a long way.
Maybe even take it a step further, and write a blog post or create a video testimonial? Share it on your social media.
Not (just) so that you can make your own affiliate monies, but because you like what this writer is doing, and want more people to learn about them and like it as well.
Not every writer out there is hustling their own direct-to-readers income.
Some are working for magazines and newspapers, company blogs, or other business entities, and creating content for them.
Which means they are constantly justifying their work through vanity metrics like views and traffic.
That’s what sells ads and subscriptions, which is what makes the company money, so that’s what matters in the bottom line.
But a well-worded note to someone in a position of authority or power, will go a long way to reminding them how important this writer is to their organization.
This is especially helpful after you buy ads or start/renew a subscription, letting them know you gave them money because of something that someone wrote.
Writers, like yourself, are busy folks. They might not be able to read and reply to every kind note that crosses their inbox.
But unless they are at some Rowling level of recognition, they likely will get a chance to at least read it.
I recently wrote a piece on my personal site about the very rough year I had in 2017.
It was not well-received by a few people, who let me know that it highlighted weaknesses that showcased my shortcomings. Or that it was a shallow attempt at traffic and audience building.
Since the truth was it was a hard post for me to write, that absolutely did the former but had no intentional planning for the latter, it mattered that much more when others messaged me to let me know how much the piece mattered to them and that they valued it.
These kind notes make the hard criticisms and honest-but-vicious feedback that much easier to hear and process.
If you have ever worked with a writer, as a freelancer or contractor you hired or a full-on member of your team, you likely didn’t really understand how the work got published.
You just know that you needed it, you paid for it, and it appeared.
Hopefully on time, and at a level of quality that you felt confident putting your brand and name on it.
As I said at the beginning, lots of people think that writing is easy because they do it themselves regularly. Emails, memos, a newsletter or blog post…if you can do it yourself how hard can it be for someone else?
But the work that a professional writer will put into creating content for you is honestly a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.
Beyond money, which is (again) the best way to support a writer that you love, there are some other things you should be doing for the writers you hire.
I’m not talking about the message you send where you say “This is great, but” and list all 42 changes you want to make.
This is the email you send after the project is wrapped, when the job has been well done, and you can let them know that you’ve read it all and know how hard they worked on it.
It’s when you let them know that you appreciate them and adore what they’ve created for you, the small piece of themselves that they poured out for your advancement.
No joke, writers aren’t getting these messages on every piece they write. In fact, if they hear something like this on 30%, they’re doing great. Be a part of raising that percentage to a good 40-50%.
If writing and content is a part of your business and brand, make sure you know what is going out on a regular basis.
No, you don’t have to be signing off on everything. Goodness knows there’s no worse bottleneck than an owner or executive needing to monkey themselves into every step of a process.
But if you are in the C-Suite, pay attention to high level marketing materials and reports. If you oversee a team or department, read what is being written on the company blog. If you are charged with marketing, sign up for and reply to the email newsletter and opt-ins that are going out.
Then turn around, and like a proud parent, share that writing with the world. Grin and stick that “My Writer Is A Superstar” bumper sticker on your virtual vehicles.
Not only does it get more eyes on your content (which is the name of the game these days), but it also leaves the writer with a warm and fuzzy feeling, to know that they are recognized and respected for what they bring to the table.
In years of business, from a corporate management/freelance-hustling/agency-owning, perspective, I have rarely met someone as insightful as a writer.
That makes sense.
Writers are in the business of looking at a situation or story, and being able to simultaneously zoom out to see what the major narrative that needs to be relayed is while also zooming in to discover all the details and nuances that keeping readers scrolling and taking action.
So why not bring that amazing perspective and skill to your planning meetings.
As an owner or manager, you are used to looking at the overview of things. As a worker, you are used to looking at the tasks to be complete.
A writer can take all these pieces and verbalize (sometimes out loud, sometimes after in a debrief) how this all will fit together, to bring your brand to the next level.
It’s a special skill that they are usually honored to show off.
So you are one of the lucky souls wandering this planet who managed to land yourself a writer in your day-to-day existence?
Well, only a bit.
As a writer, I recognize the fickle beast that can come with creative temperament and writing work. There have been countless stories on the roles of spouses and significant others in authors lives, and the weird caretaker role that many will take as their loved ones sacrifice everything to write that one thing that will change the world.
Of course not all writers are this singular, I hear some have quite healthy relationships and work-life balances.
One thing I do know, if you are one of the folks living with a writer, is that you may at times be the only one reminding them that they are respected, appreciated, and loved.
How can you remind them you ask?
Writers are often relinquished to outlining and drafting their work with the voices inside their head.
And we wonder why so many struggle with mental illness for some and weird quirks and personalities for others.
When your writer comes to you asking for feedback and a sounding board, they’re putting a huge piece of themselves before you, naked and vulnerable, even if they’re just writing copy for a client.
It’s not insulting to ask them how they are feeling about the piece, and what kind of feedback they want.
They might just want someone they love and respect themselves to tell them that it isn’t a pile of poo they are about to set on fire and watch burn with terrible repercussions.
Or they may want someone to sit down with them and really dig in, to make sure the piece is the best it can be.
Figure out what they need and offer what you can. If they are coming to you, it is because they know you can help them, whether it’s with the “simple issue” of imposter syndrome or actually needing your insight and expertise.
It’s a tired joke and stereotype that writers are running around in the same yoga pants and hoodie they’ve been wearing for 5 days, and they haven’t left the house in 10.
I am also a writer who, as I type this first draft, am wearing the same yoga pants for my 3rd day straight and have not left the flat to venture into the tundra of winter in 7.
Sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason.
When you are working on a big project as a writer, at least 60% of the work is your undivided attention on the work. Thinking about the subject, researching it, figuring out how it will all come together, making it all actually come together, then revising it 38 times to get it publishing ready.
It’s easy to forget things like bathing, sleeping, and eating more than a bowl of cereal over the sink.
There is no greater gift for a writer in the thick of things to hear a gentle knock on their office door, with a quiet offering of hot soup and a kiss on the cheek to get back at it.
There’s nothing worse than a writer who is down the rabbit-hole.
They can often get so wrapped up in their world that they need to focus absolutely on it.
Please don’t assume their disregard for wanting to discuss dinner is an indictment of their desire to be a part of your shared lifestyle.
Figure out a system with them, like the old college sock on the door. When they have a specific indicator or cue out, know that they really need some quiet space.
Give it to them.
One friend I know keeps a list in the kitchen of “topics we need to discuss” with her writer husband, and they add to the list all day, then discuss at 7 PM every night.
Nothing is forgotten, and they both are able to do what they need during the day without distraction.
If you aren’t a writer, you’ve probably read this whole piece thinking “Well jeez, I’m a plumber/computer programmer/Fortune 500 CEO and I deserve love too…where’s my article.”
You’re not wrong, and maybe that’s a piece you should put out there yourself.
Obviously as well, writers aren’t some magical unicorns on which the world should dote. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself and your happiness/success/publishing deadline for the delicate temperament of a creative soul.
For now, this Valentine’s week, on Craft Your Content, I’m focusing on a group of people I know who deserve a lot more recognition than they are often given.
We could all show writers a bit more love, and now you have some easy ways to do that.
What’s stopping you?
Elisa Doucette is a writer and editor who works with professional writers, entrepreneurs, and brands that want to make their own words even better. She is the Founder of Craft Your Content, and oversees Client Strategy and Writing Coaching. Her own writing has been featured in places like Forbes, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yahoo! Small Business, and The Huffington Post, among others. She also hosts the Writers' Rough Drafts podcast here on CYC. When she isn't writing, editing, or reading words, she can usually be found at a local pub quiz, deep in a sun salutation, or binging TV shows for concept ideas and laughs.