Writer John Simmons

Our guest blogger author John Simmons believes it's wrong to draw a line between the 'proper writer' and other types of writer. What do you think, do you agree?


Are you a writer? I sometimes get exasperated by people – often people who describe themselves as writers – who insist on ‘restricted borders’ for writing. They separate people into ‘proper writers’ and the rest. By proper writers they generally mean literary novelists and poets.

I’m a reader of those proper writers, but I also believe that writing is a country with many different regions and that everyone can be a writer – indeed everyone is a writer. We all express ourselves in words; and we all have the potential to do that more creatively. It’s simply a matter of finding ways to release that creativity.

I’m a writer for business which, for many, puts me on the wrong side of the border from proper writers.

I could cite Salman Rushdie, Fay Weldon and Justin Cartwright, plus my colleague Jamie Jauncey, as a few of those whose writing craft has been practised on advertising, packaging and marketing materials as well as fiction. But my main evidence for greater inclusiveness comes from my workshops when people (for shorthand purposes ‘business writers’) emerge as better, more confident writers through being exposed to a wider range of writing styles.

They are encouraged to use techniques – constraints that liberate – drawn from many different forms of writing. They try storytelling, poetry, other kinds of fictional writing; then they apply these to their own business writing. It works. The quality of writing improves. It improves because it is more personal and more truthful.

And, yes, I do mean truthful. I know there is a cynical response that says business writing is about the presentation of lies not truth.

The fact is, business writing succeeds best when it is most truthful, when it comes from a genuine expression of personality, when it puts aside the corporate persona and encourages the reader to appreciate that the writer is a human being like you.

John Simmons is author of 26 ways of looking at a blackberry, published by A&C Black. He also runs workshops for business writers.