“No Content for You!” Understanding The Strange Animals We Call Writers, for Best Results
Writers are strange animals, and they can be difficult to work with. But until AI replaces the human capacity to mingle style and prose, they’re irreplaceable. If you’re wise enough to have realized that a professional stringer-together-of-words-and-phrases can bring something of unique value to your content marketing strategy- then it would behoove you to try to come to terms with the strangeness of writers. The first thing we should try to understand is the nature of a writer.
“We shook our fists at the pumping rain, and then we called upon the Author to explain.” -Nick Cave
Vast Ist Das Scriben Mackenstein?
No. That’s not real German. I just find pigeon-German amusing. Anyway, what were we saying? Oh yeah. What is a writer?
A writer is a person who obsesses about words, meaning, rhetoric, etymology, stories–any one or all of these things. A writer is someone with a congenital interest in language who is in some fundamental way, broken, twisted, bent, and strange. Why is this the case? Because writing is wholly unnatural. The writer is a communicator whose personal trauma, or just general funny-mindedness, has forced him to retreat behind some implement of scrivening.
In the past, the implement was letters. We would set our pens to paper and fire away at our targets remotely. The shield of distance and artifact allows the writer to think without distraction, without the fear of immediate social consequences. Today, it is the personal computer. Twenty years ago, it was the typewriter. For the Marquis de Sade, it was blood, feces, and concrete walls. There is no escaping the conviction.
You can think of the modern writer as a kind of functional cyborg, removed from his audience- gringing furtively behind a veil of effects, not unlike the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. For him, it is a matter of survival, because in order for a mind to be capable of writing–it must also be deprived of other ordinarily critical survival skills. I, for example, am functionally developmentally disabled when it comes to mathematics. If you handed me a calculator, I would probably use it as a spatula. The very idea of maths is that alien to my nature.
The writer is a humanoid being who has made some confluence of language and technology into his cramped and ill-lit refuge. And like Gollum in his cave, anyone who violates or threatens that refuge is likely to activate a series of foul and dusty-smelling defense mechanisms.
No Content for You!
The strength of the writer is his talent for, no–his insistence on thinking in linguistic terms. This is difficult. Even people who are good at thinking cannot maintain the effort for more than five minutes at a time on average. The writer leverages the tools of the scrivener to allow him to unnaturally expand his short-term, long-term, and emotional memory. The act of writing is to the task of thinking what rope and locking carabiners are to climbing. When properly greased with pain- these tools make an impossible climb all too terribly possible.
It’s important to remember that writing is not the exclusive territory of the especially intelligent–it is for the obsessive, the calloused, the mad brutish type of quivering limbic system that will drive a man to push himself naked through a barbed wire fence to make a point. In other words, writing hurts.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” -E.H.
Thumbscrews and Solitude
The important thing to know about a writer is that when he presents you with a piece of material, what you’re looking at is the product of self-torture and loneliness. The writer may believe that he is your intellectual superior. This is annoying even when it’s true–though it is certainly not always the case. But what a writer does have the hard-won claim to, is a product that is made from the viscera of his mind, the wringing out of his spirit, and the ruin of friendly conversation. These black marks you’re looking at are scabs.
So it is best to approach the writer thinking this way. To speak to him as if the written word is nothing but a mark on a page is to trod on his pillow as if it was his doormat. I don’t know about some of these other creatures–but I would never step on your pillow. Not with shoes on anyway.
Yes, I know–it’s all very morose. The point is, writing is a costly endeavor. And writers are misers with their personal energy- since so much of it has been spent just in learning to write and arranging their lives in order to make writing practicable.
How to Work With a Writer
“Use all your well-learned politics…” -The Rolling Stones
It’s simple, really. The secret to maintaining a good relationship with a writer is to be polite, and know ahead of time that these people have an artistic temperament. That doesn’t mean that every piece of writing is art–nevertheless, the artistic temperament remains. Once again, until AI is up to the task–you’re stuck with us.
DL M has 21 years of professional writing for print and online media and has 10+ years experience as a freelance fiction editor. He’s a content creator for major corporations covering all topics for a wide range of industries, specializing in white papers, research, news content. His specialty subjects include: current events, marketing, analytics, personal development, leveraging social media, SEO, business development, cloud computing, language, and politics.