The lone writer model is more common in organizations than you might think. Whenever work is sent to a single person for execution, either to someone in the organization or to a freelance writer (often the same person each time, since that person knows the organization very well), the lone writer model is being put into action.
As someone with years of practice, the lone writer has well-honed skills and abilities. I have met many lone writers—and I confess to having been one, too. They can produce a document from A to Z, from concept to editing, to final output on a press, and even throw in a distribution plan.
I always felt uncomfortable about this position: “Why would the organization leave all that work and messaging responsibility to me?” After long and patient searching I found the answer: “Because they can!” This kind of relationship shows a pattern of enabling between the writer and the organization and it can be unhealthy.
There are risks to both the organization and the writer in the lone writer production process. The organization is at risk if something happens to the writer who knows the most about their work. A freelancer I know faced such a lot of pushback from clients that she decided to reorient her business. When she informed her clients of her new direction, she was astonished by their negative reactions: “Who will produce our documents?” they asked. She told me that they probably should have thought of that before they started arguing with her about so many of the sentences.
So here is a lose–lose situation. There is arguing on a few minor points and no one sees the overall value of the situation in time to save it, neither the skilled writer, questioning her ability and reorienting her business, nor the organization who is willing to pay for good services but not willing to take the responsibility of managing the relationship. The organization lets the writer to think she can do it all (up to a point). The writer is enabling the organization to think that no one else should be responsible for the project—they are only complaining about minor things, but it was too time-consuming for her because she wanted just to get on with her next project. They don’t share the same quality standards and no one on either side is growing and learning.
Let’s fix it
There are remedies for this situation. (Spoiler alert! It takes time.) Adopting a collaborative model for the relationship, where the organization and writer engage in shared learning and understanding—of things like roles, responsibilities, risks, and rewards—will be rich, satisfying, and bring growth to all involved. You can do this with your team, or consult a facilitator to make it happen!