Hmm, no ideas for a pithy title sub-title combo this time. Anyway.
My experience as a resume writer over the last several months has been very educational. I’ve learned quite a bit about resume formatting and writing, obviously, enough so that I’ve completely rewritten mine from scratch. It’s also given me some experience with great clients and, well, less than satisfactory clients.
The bottom end of that last spectrum, though, has brought a few interesting things to my attention. Or, rather, has reminded me of a few things that I’d forgotten. They can be summed up in one statement:
Non-writers, generally, have a lot of misconceptions about writing.
I’d like to address a few of the ones that stand out the most.
1) Writing is a solitary act.
Many of the worst clients, and quite a few non-writers in general, seem to accept the stereotype of the lone writer closeted in an attic somewhere banging away at keys (or scribbling away with a pen, quill, whatever). They don’t seem to get that all writing is an inherently communal act. On the simplest level, of course, writing is communication, which requires at least two people. But, beyond that, even classroom writing is a two or more person endeavor (student-instructor, the latter edits, comments, replies, praises, etc.). And in the case of writing for others, say writing a resume for someone else, it is a communal act between writer and client, e.g. the client needs to provide useful feedback in a timely fashion.
2) Writers are psychics or telepaths.
Some, apparently, think that writers can read the minds of others. Let’s nip this one fast. Non-fiction writers, particularly resume writers, cannot just make stuff up. They need to conduct research, which often means getting information from other people. A writer can’t just throw together a document, ex. a resume, from someone saying, “I’m applying for this position, write me a resume.” The writer needs to know certain things—educational background, employment history, achievements, contact info–that (s)he can’t simply make up. Even fiction writers need to do research, regardless of genre. When I’m writing secondary world fantasy, I do research (as needed). Usually, this is what I call inspirational research—looking up info on real world religions, governments, magic “systems”, or images to inspire descriptions—rather than factual research—ex. what does Brooklyn look like in 2015, what were the demographics of Chicago circa 2000 C.E. for an urban fantasy or mainstream piece.
3) Writing is 100% perfect the first time.
This is a huge one that I’ve seen lately. Apparently, writers are supposed to produce a perfect piece the very first time they write. Non-writers don’t really seem to understand the drafting-revising process, or consequently the joys of the editorial feedback/beta reader process. Obviously, this is not the case. Those of us who write a lot realize the fact that drafting-revising is a potentially unending cycle (if it weren’t for things like deadlines, paying bills, eating . . . silly stuff). There’s always something that can be improved. Still, it is very rare to get something written perfectly on the first take. In twenty years or so of regular writing, I can think of one instance where I had a virtually perfect first draft (and even then, I say “virtually”).
4) Writing is easy.
I’m not even going to start on this one. If you’ve done any serious writing, you’re likely laughing at the idea already. If you haven’t, I’m not entirely sure how to explain it. Suffice to say, this one usually causes me to either laugh or grown. Exception: When I’m dealing with students, then I shake my head and explain that good, solid writing is never easy, even for the extremely talented and/or extremely experienced.