I thought you meant a real writer

Feb 17, 2014 | Everything Else

I was at an otherwise-forgettable social gathering about forty years ago. I had just completed my fourth book and I was starting to define myself as a writer. That’s how my friend described me when he introduced me to an older woman. She immediately perked up.

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” she gushed. “What are some of the books you’ve written?”

I proudly reeled off the titles, including all-time favorites like Management by Exception for First Line Supervisors. The woman looked disappointed.

“Oh,” she said, “I thought you meant a real writer.”

I can laugh about it today, but back then I was hurt and angry. What did she mean by “real writer” anyway? She meant fiction writer.

The common image of a writer is the fiction writer. Fiction writers are romantic creatures, sensitive artists spinning masterpieces from whole cloth. You won’t be doing that as a business writer.

Business writers do two things. We explain things and we tell true stories to make a point. It’s noble work, but not very romantic. Don’t worry, though.

Get your facts straight. Tell your stories well. Make your points clearly. You’ll never become a “real writer,” but you can make the world a little better.