How being a fiction writer makes me better at my job – Brianna Wolfson

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By Brianna Wolfson

Like many writers I know, I work full time. I wrote my debut novel, Rosie Colored Glasses, and recently finished a draft of a second novel while working on non-writing-related work every Monday-Friday for 10 hours a day. My initial instinct was not to mention how much time and emotional energy I was dedicating to my writing outside of work, but I’m still a writer even once I’ve walked through the doors of my office. It didn’t quite feel right to conceal it. So, in an effort to reconcile those feelings, I started reflecting on how being a fiction writer makes us better at our jobs. I hope this empowers more writers to bring their full writer selves to work!♥

1. The compulsion to write it all down

Writers are often documenters of the world around them. We record ideas, observations, and interpretations in little notebooks and stained scratchpads uncontrollably. We spin those ideas, observations and interpretations into prose. We are written communicators, after all. That instinct to document can be very impactful in an office environment, too. Firstly, it has been proven in countless studies that those who write something down are significantly more likely to engage with and remember that thing. Secondly, turning something into prose forces you to think more rigorously about the subject matter. And lastly, it helps to scale your knowledge by enabling others to come across your work without having to talk to you directly. Documenting the state of a project or a stance on a particular decision, for example, has made me a much more engaged and connected employee.

2. Using storytelling and narrative

The narrative arc is a must in fiction writing. In our pursuit to move our readers emotionally, we frequently rely on our preferred storytelling frameworks like The Hero’s Journey or the 5 Cs – Character, Circumstance, Curiosity, Conflict, Change (John Truby’s, The Anatomy of a Story, is my personal favorite). In the business setting, it is much more common to go for the head than the heart. But you can often achieve more impact by going for the heart, even in the business setting. There are dozens of studies that prove that ideas are better understood and perceived as more powerful when they are coupled with emotion (Storytelling that moves people, and my personal favorite study: Super Bowl ads). Whether it’s a project brief, to a sales conversation, to a marketing campaign, to settling a dispute, the introduction of storytelling elements always helps!

3. Tying the small details to the big picture

Fiction writers often write with a big idea in mind- typically a reflection on the way the world is or ought to be. When writing fiction, we use specific scenes, settings, and interactions between characters to build up to that big idea. It’s how you get that perfect climax or that gratifying resolution. The same thing should be true in the work environment. The little things (the day-to-day work or the individual scene) have to build into the big idea (whether it is the goal of the project or the moral argument of the story). When you mindful crafting how the little elements contribute to the big picture, you can achieve a more satisfying and more impactful outcome. In business more than in writing, it is important to articulate precisely what that idea is (even if it violates the sacred writing tenet of “show, don’t tell!”).

4. Keeping yourself accountable

Writing is an inherently solitary pursuit, especially at the outset. In order to stay motivated and productive, writers employ all kinds of accountability mechanisms to their work. I’ve seen (and tried!) everything from daily word counts to emailing pages to a writing buddy to creating deadlines. The same mechanisms are helpful in a work setting. Projects need accountability and when there aren’t obvious any accountability mechanisms keeping something on track it’s always a good idea to introduce them.

Brianna Wolfson’s debut novel is Rosie Colored Glasses. She shares her narrative non-fiction in the San Francisco writing circuit, having performed at The Moth and been featured on Medium.

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