Magic Words: “I am a writer and I need help.”

There are many cool things about being a writer. I know I talk a lot about how difficult this profession is and the obstacles we face, and those things are true. But there are many cool things about being a writer and one of them is how quickly people are willing to try and help you if you tell them, “I’m a writer.”

People on the street. Ordinary people who have other responsibilities and jobs and dreams and aspirations. But if you’re doing research especially and you approach someone and need help or guidance, and tell them you are a writer, it’s a like a magic key or something. They almost want to jump and help you out.

I have thought about this and I don’t know exactly why, but I think I have an idea. I wonder if it’s because they don’t view writing as something mystical. I don’t mean to single out writing. I am wondering if the same thing happens for other people involved in an artistic undertaking. People respond to that. They want to help.

Or if it comes up in conversation they suddenly want to know more about it. They are interested maybe because they view our profession as something strange and mysterious, when those of us who work in it know it is no different than digging ditches. It’s hard work.

I got to thinking about this because a while back I was working on a story that took place in Syria. I couldn’t find any detailed maps of Damascus or the countryside (this was before Google Earth) so I wrote our embassy there and told them my situation. One of the people associated with the ambassador got back in touch with me and sent me a bunch of maps and all kinds of stuff. How awesome is that? He didn’t have to do it. He didn’t know me. It wasn’t like I was Stephen King or something. But people often like to help you if you tell them you are a writer and need assistance.

I was wondering if anyone else has noticed this?

One of the nice things about being a writer is people are often willing to help you.

2 Replies to “Magic Words: “I am a writer and I need help.””

  1. Yes, K.M., people who posses the appropriate resources for “backgrounding” writers really like to help most of the time. In NW Alabama, for instance, the folks who have a lot of word-of-mouth and artifact resources about the life of Native Americans over the past 3-4 centuries in this area really enjoy going back to dig for more! Research and educational institutions sometimes even provide a few hours of an intern’s time to pull some stuff together for a writer, even though not a big name one!

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