When is a writer not a writer?

A couple of weeks ago we had an interview with a young candidate who wanted to “get into writing”. Though in the end we decided the candidate wasn’t suitable for us, one of my colleagues said an interesting thing. “It’s great to know there are so many nice writers based in Canterbury,” she said. This comment made me pause. “I agree the candidate was very nice,” I said, “but I really don’t think you can call someone with an English degree a writer.”

My comment drew a blank look, though I have to say my colleague’s reaction was no surprise. You see, all too often these days people apply for writing jobs with the misconception that the fact they have a degree – in whatever subject – means they are, by default, the ideal candidate for a writing-related role.

I’ve written blogs in the past on the subject of just what it takes to be a writer, but more than this, I believe that fundamentally to be a writer, first you have to write something!

This reminds me very much of my experience during the first year of my undergraduate degree. I turned up at the creative writing module expecting to find kindred spirits who shared my same passion for the written word, and found the most anyone had ever written outside of education was a side of A4! To say this was a crushing experience is something of an understatement, and I will never forget the look on lecturer’s face when I told him just how much I write.

But really, why should this be shocking? If you want to be a writer, and you feel passionately about the things that you do, then first and foremost you should write! When someone comes to us and labels themselves “writer” I want to see that same passion in their eyes, that same commitment to writing and getting better at what they do.

I admit that the role that we were interviewing for was not strictly just a writing-related position. In healthcare marketing and ghost-writing there are far more skills required than simply being able to write. But when you are tagged as writer / designer / chef whatever you really should be able to demonstrate examples of your craft. Sharing a portfolio that contains nothing other than essays from your degree simply doesn’t cut it!

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