I wrote my way up. From an intern to a community manager to an entry-level sales rep to a manager to a senior manager to a director. But when I started out, I didn’t understand what writing was. At least, not in a professional sense. To me, writing was simply a way to communicate basic information. It was short bursts of words starting off with, “FYI…” “Just to let you know…” and “I don’t know if you saw this, but…” It was quick replies to brief questions: “Will do,” “Got it, thanks,” “Understood.” Regardless of if I was indeed going to do something, if I actually did get it, or if anything, at all, was understood. Man, I was lost.
Everything changed when ideas — for better processes, how to motivate the team, and faster ways to scale — began pouring out of me. The only challenge was I had nowhere to go with them. Catching the CEO for a few minutes became harder as we raised new rounds of funding. Conversations over coffee with colleagues was always helpful, but nailing down results that would actually lead to action was difficult. Everyone has ideas, and while that doesn’t mean all ideas are created equal, most ideas will never see the light of day because the one who thinks them often lacks the necessary tools to get them out into the world.
So instead of accepting defeat and grabbing beers with friends only to vent about how, “I have, like, so many ideas, man. So, so many ideas for how to do things differently. You don’t even know…” I wrote an email to the CEO. And when I received a thoughtful reply, encouraging me to move forward with my ideas, I began to write more. And more. And more. I would write emails to the CEO, to other senior employees, and anyone else who I believed could help me put my ideas into action, tell me they needed to be fleshed out, or just that they were garbage, but to keep going. I wrote weekly updates, detailing what was going well and what wasn’t. I surfaced issues threatening the business, paired with solutions, whenever they arose. I wrote it all. Because it was then I discovered that writing isn’t just a way to communicate basic information; writing is the execution of ideas through words. And the more you believe that the more you will be able to change your life in ways you may have never imagined.
“But what if I don’t have ideas?” you may ask. That’s fine because they will come. But even if they don’t, being able to coherently put a sentence together and present it in a way that allows people — e.g. your colleagues, manager, or future employer — to understand your thinking is a foundational skill that, “According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 73.4% of employers want.” Not only that, but, as Jason Fried, Founder of Basecamp, stated in his book, Rework:
If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. Their writing skills will pay off. That’s because being a good writer is about more than writing clear writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate. Writing is making a comeback all over our society…Writing is today’s currency for good ideas.