8 Traits I Wish Employers Knew About Writers - Writer's Digest

8 Traits I Wish Employers Knew About Writers

Writers work hard. Now, if only employers would. E.L. Tenenbaum shares eight skills writers have that make them great candidates for that necessary-for-most day job.
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E.L. Tenenbaum gets it: writers work hard. Now, if only employers would. She shares eight skills writers have that make them great candidates for that necessary-for-most day job.

A first piece of writing advice I received was a warning, “Don’t quit your day job.”

Like many quick quotes, it’s much easier said than done. Because, until most writers are able to afford “living the dream,” we have the dreary task of holding full or part-time jobs. You know, responsibilities.

However, a few no-go applications in, I’m thinking many employers might not be reading the highlights of my resume correctly. Especially because some don’t think writing is a “real job,” it seems more appropriate for Hobbies instead of Work Experience.

And yet, I believe my published novels say as much about me as the office job I held for several years. Anyone familiar with what it takes to be a writer knows just how much goes into taking a novel, or any work, from concept to completion.

So, had I courage enough to slip a cheat sheet behind my resume, here are some things I wish employers would think of as soon as they see “Writer.”

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Job postings commonly list that the desired candidate should be an “excellent written communicator.” Well, look no further! Who’s more qualified for written communications than a writer?

A friend once asked around for recommendations for someone to write standard business correspondence for her company.

A pause. Then, “I’m a writer.”

“This is for business,” she emphasized.

Yes, I wanted to say, and though I’m a fiction writer, fiction isn’t just about making stuff up. Fiction writing, and writing in general, is about combining the right words and tone for a certain effect. No matter how fun or imaginative or officious the topic may be.

So think of writers as word alchemists who know the secrets to melding letters and words to create all types of written communications in a variety of tones and formats.


For independent and traditional houses, and to some extent the hired help of self-publishing, too, there’s a point when the work’s taken out of a writer’s hands with a confident, “We’ll take it from here.”

From the changes an editor makes to the cover designer reminding your nitpicking that he doesn’t tell you how to write, we trust the team around us and know how much better our book will be with their help. Most writers are also happy to give credit to the many who make the magic happen.

Also, whether we’re outliners or not, we know how to stick to the basic plan, while still allowing room and flexibility for serendipity. Our characters surprise and delight us all the time; we know people can, too.


Until you become a writer, you may fall into the trap of romanticizing the writing life the moment you hit on a good idea for a story. Eventually, you learn work doesn’t end with a completed draft, nor is it over once the physical book is finally out.

Another first I had to learn about being a writer was, ”Tell others you’re a writer.” How else could they know?

Over the past few years, I’ve been part of a number of author groups, so I say with confidence that writers are some of the hardest workers out there. They are the staunchest advocates and strongest supporters of their brands. Actually, they are their brands! Successful and dedicated writers are always hustling, always looking for a new angle, always eager to share new ideas.

These are the kinds of employees every small business values and needs.

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Most writers like to know things. And though many of us are hermits with Wi-Fi enabled lairs, we are still interested in the wider world, travel, people, and ideas. We limit our writing otherwise.

Ergo, most of us enjoy learning about new things and gladly put in the time to find out more. So even if we don’t know about a new program or product or what that confounded new doohickey does, our ears and minds are open!

And, hey, it may even jumpstart our next book. Death by Paper Shredder, anyone?


Many forget that being a writer means writing, the magic being akin to an ice cream factory. Bottom line, it’s still a factory. And factories must produce.

If we’re writing under contract, then we have a definite goal. If not, we set our goals, so we’re also the ones who can nudge them at will. Being a writer means getting the work done, no matter if there’s no immediate deadline looming overhead.

We’re our own bosses, our own HR department. We’re consistently hitting the mental gym even though there’s not a New Year’s resolution in sight. Almost any published writer is probably a disciplined worker. There’s even a solid chance of good organization skills, as well. There’s almost no way to make the magic happen otherwise.


If ever someone comments about the “high” price of books, I very nicely ask how much a year or two or twelve of their work is worth? That usually ends the argument, because the speaker finally thinks about just how much time goes into writing and publishing. Even sped up, there’s a process, and that takes time. Especially if we’re holding down a bread-on-the-table job, especially if we have family to care for, especially if, if, if.

Many writers simply don’t have enough minutes in an hour, so we learn how to pack a ton of steel and feathers into our limited work time. And we can be laser-focused about it, too.


This doesn’t need much explaining for anyone who’s ever published, or even written, a book.

If you haven’t, all I can say is that what most often distinguishes a writer from a published writer isn’t talent or schooling or a ten-week boot camp. A published writer is simply someone who finished the work, then stuck through the myriad rounds of edits, proofing, and design to get it into readers’ hands.

Perseverance, resilience, and a special kind of patience are some of the most important traits a writer can have and offer.


Most us not-overnight-successes are too familiar with one of a writer’s most notorious arch-villains: rejection. Yet many books, famous or not, wouldn’t be around today if the author had allowed that first (or fifteenth) “good luck elsewhere” wear the pants around here.

Personally, I’ve notched a few hundred rejections (and counting). However, I have a few published novels, too. And they wouldn’t be here had I let the many variations of “this isn’t for me” stop me.

It doesn’t mean that it’s easy, that I never need a minute to recollect myself, again. But it does mean that I kept on trying and writing anyway, and getting better at it, too.

Because writingtakes work, and I have at least eight valuable traits to help see me through.

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