A mistake that many employers of writers make is to focus on the shadow rather than the substance of the writing. This shadow includes paper qualification, area of qualification, published work claims, and some soft skills that have no bearing on the ability to write.
A good writer is known by the writing, not by certificates or claims.
Whenever I see an employer who needs a good writer but is obsessed with degrees and certificates, I see an unserious employer. Is a written certificate? No. Does a written degree? No. Degrees are important, but they do not determine whether someone can write well or not.
If you say you’re a good writer, I won’t argue with you. If you show me any published material you wrote, I won’t argue with you again. Having worked in the newsroom and in the book publishing industry, I’ve seen bad articles transformed by wonderful editors. Before joining journalism, I read reports with the signature of certain people. I called these people wonderful writers because of the stories that bear their names. When I entered journalism, I was shocked to see a different picture. Articles arrived in the newsroom by fax (and by e-mail in subsequent years) from journalists across the country. The editor and his assistants would be busy rewriting these stories before sending them to page planners to prepare them for publication. Sometimes you could hear their anguish over the lack of head or tail in some stories. Sometimes they would pass stories on to a few trusted hands to help turn the stories around. Reading stories with some people’s names, I had read their reports, I couldn’t believe the quality of writing and grammar I saw. Sometimes, in frustration, the editor would throw a journalist’s story in the trash, having read it several times without learning anything significant. Sometimes the editor would ask the person who shot a story to add their name as a co-author of the story, given the amount of work done to make the story readable.
Therefore, this experience helped to change my attitude towards writing and writers. Since then, whenever I have the opportunity to recruit a writer or consult for an organization on the question of recruiting a writer, I place less emphasis on certificates and claims and favor practical tests by writing. If I want to know if you’re a good writer, I’ll just give you something to write to prove your ability. The same goes for an editor. You prove your ability by editing, not by certificates or declarations of having edited this or that work.
Likewise, having soft skills like interpersonal and team-playing skills is wonderful, but they shouldn’t be essential for creatives like writers and artists for organizations, which place substance on the shadows. They should be under “nice to have”. Creatives and technical professionals like tech and engineering experts don’t necessarily need to have great interpersonal and team-playing skills to be effective. Primacy must be given to the quality of the work they produce. If they’re great at what they do but aren’t great at relating to people, they can work behind the scenes. As long as they deliver results, that’s what matters most. If an artist has a habit of throwing tantrums but is known for producing stunning designs, he’s a better candidate for the job than a nice, affable guy who produces mediocre designs.
Most people familiar with global issues usually remember Saatchi & Saatchi as an advertising agency because of the global publicity the UK based agency has created through memorable ad campaigns. One of them was the “The workforce does not work” slogan he created for the Conservative Party, which helped lead Margaret Thatcher to victory in the 1979 election. Saatchi & Saatchi, which was founded in 1970 by two brothers (Charles and Maurice Saatchi), whose family has emigrated from Iraq to the UK in 1947 due to anti-Semitic fears, became the world’s largest advertising agency in 1986 when it took over the American advertising agency. , Ted Bates.
While still climbing as an agency, one day they presented a design to a client and the client said the copy wasn’t good enough. Charles Saatchi, who was an editor and the eldest of two brothers, told the client to roll up the drawing and stick it on his ass. He then left. That’s the kind of thing you don’t tell a client. Young Saatchi (Mauritius), who was the customer service professional, did his best to handle the situation. Consequently, Charles stopped attending client meetings and interacting with clients. But he was good at creating ad concepts and copy that campaigns were anchored on. Maurice held meetings with clients and made presentations to them, then returned to his temperamental and reclusive older brother. If Charles wasn’t a co-founder of the agency, he would have been fired because of his tempestuous nature. But his younger brother handled it well as he produced the results that helped make Saatchi & Saatchi a household name in advertising.
If a creative has soft skills, that’s great. But otherwise, that shouldn’t be a barrier to hiring such talent. The downside for creatives, who lack soft skills, is that they unwittingly cap their ascent. They can become senior executives or directors of an organization, but can never become the CEO unless they own those organizations.
On the Nigerian scene, some of the great editors, journalists and broadcasters, who were raves of the 1970s and 1980s, had no academic background. But they were exceptional. There are also many people with college degrees in disparate fields like engineering, medicine, economics, and mathematics who have excelled as novelists, playwrights, poets, editors, and journalists.
No university awards a person a degree in “good writing” or “good editing”. Universities award students degrees in English, mass communication, theater arts, linguistics, and more. Because these courses relate to language and communication, graduates are “expected” to have good writing and grammar skills. Note the two words: “are expected”. However, to be sure that these graduates meet this expectation, they must be tested. Non-graduates who have a talent for writing and who have honed their writing skills through self-help as well as graduates of courses not related to writing should also have equal opportunity and be tested without damage.
When tested on writing – even if awakened from sleep – a true writer exhibits a spark of excellence. In conclusion, good writing is like a pregnancy: it is not spoken, it is seen!
– Twitter: @BrandAzuka
All rights reserved. This material and any other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without the prior express written permission of PUNCH.
Contact: [email protected]