I’m a writer and I stand by that. It’s what I am, from my off-beat views and off-cuff comments to my crazy hair to my lunchtime laptop sessions. Everyone knows I’m a writer (with the possible exception of agents – sigh). But this is what I do, babe.
So it’s not surprising that people take notice of this.
A while back, one of my Indian coworkers asked if I might chat with his son about writing. I was given samples of his school work (which wasn’t bad) and asked to give him suggestions. So we chatted – he was a great kid – and I taught him a couple of tricks. Like reading your work aloud and listening for where it “clunked”. I read him one long washboard sentence and his eyes lit up – “Right there. Yes, I can hear it”. For the rest of the session, he was tossing out the chunks. Since then, he posts me some of his writing drills and I smooth them out (and show him what I’ve altered) but overall I can see the change. His dad’s quite happy.
And then there was the guy who pigeonholed me while I was writing at lunch and asked if I’d review his resume. It was a couple of pages of dense writing but it didn’t need to be that dense. I took the backspace machete to it and cleaned out duplicate wordings and cleared his literary property nicely. In the end, it was tighter and righter, and he was very grateful (and no, I don’t take money for the effort, his thanks were enough (just like the Lone Ranger)).
But that’s part of being a writer (at least a community writer); giving occasional help. It’s like being the guy who knows plumbing or car repair. Nothing major. Just a quick fix. And doing this, just like writing itself, relies on your ability to do it as quick and tight as your own work. If you can show them how quickly you can turn around their project, if you can see it in their eyes, then you’ve passed your own test and turned your own skills. Sure, it’s a half-hour, but they’ll be helped and you’ll be better. Win-win all around.
So the next time someone comes up and asks if you might help them tune up a report, resume, or schoolwork, consider saying yes. You’ll be a better writer for it.
COMING SOON: How to turn down offers to ghost-write the Great American Novel (“I had this idea I wanted to run by you…”).