Writers are seldom good people. You would only need to take a cursory look at their emails, messaging accounts or notebooks to see that.
It is the job of writers to push the envelope and think so far outside the box that it may as well be on fire, in another country. They think the unthinkable, share gallows humour of the worst kind and live in fear of their Google search and internet histories being revealed. They’re awful. Don’t let your son or daughter marry one. They’re maniacs.
But, what all of this does add up to is an ability to think what those in your business cannot. The term ‘storyteller’ has become popular among PR professionals and branding specialists, but if you really need a story telling or new ideas imagined you need a writer. Just don’t invite one into your house, let alone your office. At least not on a regular basis.
By a writer, I mean someone who writes all the time, for a living. Someone who is incapable of doing anything else. They may be a journalist, author, novelist, poet or writer of non-fiction. They spend 50% of their time staring into the middle distance. The middle distance is where all the best ideas are. Only they can see them. They don’t even need to be on drugs to do so. Though, you know, they may be. They’ll at least have had a sniff of a marker pen that day.
Writers can be obstinate, feckless or reckless, but they can also be brilliant, funny and genuinely inspiring. Why else do we enthuse to our children about them? Why else would we dedicate whole university courses to their works? They may prefer to spend a day in a pub or a library than turn up to work in a half-decent outfit. But you don’t look forward to reading the accounts or a marketing report on holiday do you? No. You look forward to reading the work of writers. They free your mind. They take you places, even when you’re stuck in the airport.
Writers were disruptive before anyone uttered that word at a start-up funding round. They literally make you stop and think. So, it amazes me that more businesses don’t use writers to help out their business. It’s a win-win. Writers usually need the money (for pens, drugs, rent, murder weapons) and business generally lacks any kind of genuine inspirational input. Even creative agencies can be devoid of true creativity and ideas that go beyond recycling some old Guinness ads and hoping Vice pick it up.
I work with businesses on a regular basis, sitting in on creative sessions and attending meetings with clients. It nearly always makes the process less fraught for those who employ me, as the client can see creative happen before their eyes. It doesn’t rely on strategy or track records, it’s just live thinking. Sometimes they even invite me for a drink afterwards. Just so long as I haven’t sniffed too many pens that day.