The Writer’s Hidden Roles

writer hidden roles researcher
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“Back in the day,” writers might have been able to “write what they know” solely based on their everyday experience. Now, though, most writers can’t take such a leisurely approach to the colloquialism. In the Internet era, wordsmithing that actually pays the rent can center around a million different topics. The only way to survive is to accept additional hidden roles.

Writing today means variety

Here’s an example of what I mean. Today, I started my day out writing about the definition of discourse communities. (Yay! A language-related article!) After breakfast, I moved on to an article on building culture in remote work environments. Then I did a piece on fitness.

Naturally, I am not an expert in all of these topics. So for each article, I scoured page after page of Google results for relevant information. After taking notes, I knew enough to be able to construct a decent, coherent piece for each topic.

This reality applies just as much to book writers as it does article, copy, or website writers. Because the world is so connected, readers want books on a wider range of topics. They’re able to spot flaws in writing better, too. They’ll call you out, for example, if you have a character use red potatoes for an authentic meal when the tradition is to use yellow. They can “hear” poor dialogue that doesn’t match what they actually say.

For success as writer, hone the hidden roles of researching and decision-making

The modern writer generally no longer can draw only from a specific or previous knowledge set, or the number of projects they can complete will be ridiculously slim (slimmer still, when you consider writers don’t get all the projects on which they bid). What’s more, given the proliferation of information online and through other sources, they have to be highly analytical, having the ability to discern very quickly what data is most relevant or pertinent to a reader.

In other words, the best writers are no longer just “writers”. They are also, by new necessity, researchers and decision-makers. This is important because a command of linguistics doesn’t automatically yield research and decision-making skills. If you aren’t good at research or decision-making, you might need to hone those skills before your writing process truly becomes efficient and your content is of exceptional quality.