Have you ever asked yourself…
What kind of writer am I?
It’s one of the most important questions for you to answer when you first begin your journey as a writer, and it’s useful to check in now and then, even after you’ve begun, to make sure you’re on track and not doing something that goes against what you are made to do.
Because all writers need to create value with their ideas and their words, but the kind of value you provide depends on the kind of writer you are.
In this lesson, we will go through the 7 Major Types of Writers, as well as the unique values they produce with their words–the value their words produce in their lives. And as we go through them, keep this question in mind:
Which one(s) do YOU identify with?
(At the end of this lesson, you can take a quiz and answer this question for yourself!)
Hobbyists make up the majority of writers. These people enjoy writing and find it relaxing and fun as a side endeavor to add richness and fun to their lives. They don’t depend on writing to make a living or a life, so they don’t have to be very serious about it.
In his famous book, On Writing, William Zinsser wrote about speaking at a writer’s showcase with another writer who was a surgeon first and a writer in his spare time. The surgeon gushed about how much fun writing was, leaving Zinsser boggled.
For Zinsser, writing was a strenuous endeavor, nothing like the carefree hobby the surgeon described. That’s the difference between the hobbyist and the full time writer, in a nutshell.
The value of being a hobbyist is that writing will always be fun and enjoyable to you. You don’t expect much from it besides a good time, and you don’t care if you don’t get around to it every day, or month, or year.
The problem is, you won’t get very GOOD at writing if you’re only a hobbyist, dabbling off and on with no rhyme or reason…but you don’t really care, because your goal isn’t to become excellent — it’s to have fun. And that’s just fine with you.
Artisan writers are the people who treat writing like a high-class art. These are the people who agonize over every word, rewrite sentences five times before they allow people to see it, and treat great writing/writers with the kind of hushed reverence that most people reserve for art at the Louvre.
You can count on Artisan Writers to create imaginative, polished, incredible works of great detail. They know all the nuances of language and word combinations and often write articles, novels, and content that is beyond the appreciation abilities of the average internet surfer or skimmer.
What value does an Artisan Writer offer? Artisan Writers can give you a reading experience like no one else. To really appreciate an Artisan Writer’s work, you have to sit down, take your time, and let the essence of their words and thoughts permeate your mind and fill your imagination.
On the other hand, Artisan Writers can be a bit neurotic when it comes to their art. They love writing passionately. They are incredible writers, and they know it. But there is a danger of Artisan Writers to get a little TOO wrapped up in their craft, looking down on Hobbyists and people who don’t “get” their work or take them seriously.
Still, give an Artisan Writer enough uninterrupted time, and they will create breathtaking works of art — classics that stand the test of time.
3. Practical Writers
Make money, create authority to build a business, make a living — these are the major goals that Practical Writers shoot for. They are GOOD at writing, but they don’t see it as a hobby or art so much as a means to an end. And that end is keeping themselves and their families alive.
Practical Writers are highly efficient and flexible. They learn fast and can write about any topic, as long as someone is willing to pay them for it. This makes Practical Writers sound somewhat mercenary, and some of them are, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Most people don’t start out as Practical Writers — they start writing as a hobby, perhaps, and then realize that they’re good enough to make a living with it, so they do.
Practical Writers offer value in their ability to provide for themselves and their families, and their chameleon-like writing skills make them extremely useful for businesses and individuals who have a message to share, but lack the writing abilities to share those messages. Practical Writers are your copywriters and ghostwriters, often working for agencies or as freelancers.
The danger of being a Practical Writer is that, just as with any job, it can be tricky to balance efficiency with meaning and creative freedom to keep things interesting and keep yourself from burning out.
To keep the spark alive, so to speak, Practical Writers should take some time to do some Hobby writing to remind themselves why they got in the business in the first place, and to balance out the “less exciting” writing they have to do to keep food on the table.
4. Therapist Writers
Therapist Writers write in order to exorcise demons — their own and others. Usually both. Writing has a mysteriously beneficial way of helping people sort out their thoughts and untangle their emotions, and Therapist Writers are particularly good at using words like medicine.
Memoirists are often Therapist Writers. They write to make sense of some painful event in their lives, to achieve closure. And the best ones bring their readers along for the journey, not only giving them insight into another person’s struggle, but offering them encouragement and resources to face their own challenges.
The value they offer: Therapist Writers do much good in a world riddled with hidden hurts. A lot of the things people have trouble saying, Therapist Writers can write. A lot of the messages people have trouble hearing, Therapist Writers can communicate. That’s why we’ll always need Therapist Writers in this world.
The only caution for Therapist Writers is to not over-analyze or dramatize painful stories, cheapening them. We need to be aware of each others’ struggles, but too much drama can create compassion fatigue and lessen the gravitas of tough experiences.
If you are a Therapist Writer, be honest and gracious in your writing, and you will be able to go far and help many people.
Connectors are writers whose primary purpose is to bring people together. They write to share stories not in order to teach or inform, necessarily, but to relate to others.
They use humor, personal stories, even marketing/persuasion type writing to connect people to ideas, places, or each other. Connectors are great interviewers, as they love to listen deeply to other people’s stories, then relate those same stories to draw even more people together.
Connectors provide great value in the writing world and the real world. They bring together different ideas and people, creating something never before seen. They make people feel heard and appreciated. They help bring a bit of this increasingly fragmented world back together again.
Connectors may sometimes need to be careful who and what they connect, however. Some people and ideas, brought together, can be explosive — and not always in a good way. But in general, being a Connector or being around Connectors and reading what they write is a great pleasure, and you will always learn something new!
Historians are the quintissential Legacy-Weavers, particularly family historians. These writers have a deep fascination with and appreciation for the past and don’t want to see it fade from memory.
They spend thousands of hours researching historical facts and interviewing older people, collecting their stories for posterity. Legacy-Weavers can be fiction or nonfiction writers, as long as their mission is to preserve and pass on the past to future generations.
The best Legacy-Weavers are enchanted by the past, and create value by recreating this spellbinding effect on their readers through their words. They are the sentinels and prophets of the writing world, preserving old traditions, predicting patterns, and teaching the lessons of history to those who carry the torch forward.
Legacy-Weavers can sometimes get a bit lost in the past, making them somewhat inefficient in the present, and it also takes a lot of time and effort to conduct the depth of research that they want to do. Yet their work is extremely important to help people and communities achieve a grounded sense of identity and continuity.
Self-actualizing writing may sound selfish, but it’s really not. If writing is what you’re created to do, then you’ll always feel like a fish out of water when you’re not doing it.
Self-actualizers are usually also Therapists, Legacy-Weavers, Artisans, or Connectors. They may be focused on one particular form of writing, or be completely diversified, but they have one thing in common: Writing is their life. It’s as natural as breathing and necessary as eating for them.
Put a pen and a blank piece of paper in front of a Self-Actualizer, and they light up. They live to write, to capture and polish and share ideas through words. Self-Actualizers write to figure out who they are, and to offer their greatest contribution to the world.
Self-Actualizers write mostly for their own sake. This is both good and not always so good. On the one hand, they’ll write no matter what. Criticism can hurt, but can’t stop them. Even if they never find a fan base while they live, they will keep writing because it’s what they do. And the more they write, the stronger they will become. Eventually they will create quality art that someone will appreciate.
In a sense, you could say that the value a Self-Actualizer offers others is a bit of an unintended side-effect. However, even if it’s a side effect, it can still be extremely valuable. Because Self-Actualizers aren’t as afraid of criticism or influenced by others, they can be extremely original and powerful communicators.
However, the downside of this is that Self-Actualizers can forget that readers are important too, and lose sight of the fact that writing for others is one of the best reasons to write.
The great part of being a Self-Actualizer is that you’ll always have a skill, a gift that can be used for great good. But remember to take time for people and for other life pursuits and not become too self-absorbed. Remember your readers, the people you are impacting with your words, and you’ll be a stronger writer for it.
So…Which Writer Type Are YOU?
As you’ve probably figured out by now, most people aren’t purely one type of writer. In fact, many writers are a mix of the above, at different times and in different stages of life.
There’s no right way to be a writer. We need all of the different types of writers to make this world go around. But if you know what type you predominantly lean toward, you can learn to maximize your strengths and balance out your potential weaknesses.
So take this quiz now, and figure out what kind of writer YOU are; what unique value you offer!
(P.S. In the next and final lesson, we’ll discuss some powerful strategies for crushing your penchant for procrastination and turn YOU into an unstoppable writer. Keep an eye out for it!)