Behind The Quill

10 Lessons Learned Being Your Server

June 3, 2019

When I contemplate the person I would be today if I had never worked in the restaurant industry, I am presented with the image of a very shy and awkward human being with little, to no understanding of effective social skills 🙂 Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she would be lovely. But, definitely not who I am today.

Being your server for a decade was more than just refills and order-taking. The restaurant hustle gave me life lessons, priceless for my journey as a wordsmith. So let’s dive into the parallels between serving tables and serving words:

1. Talking to People Shapes Narratives

Working alongside highly charismatic and charming human beings is very effective in motivating you to level up your people skills. Something that, you may have already guessed, did not come naturally to me. All my introverted people, please stand up!

Thanks to my extroverted co-workers, this introvert learned to navigate all kinds of social landscapes. Engaging with people from all walks of life fine-tuned my ability to understand and empathize with different characters – essential for storytelling.

2. Adaptability: The Name of the Writing Game

There is almost no predictability in the restaurant industry. You have a new schedule every week, new staff members every other day, and a constant stream of new management styles. Every shift, you have to be ready to be charming and effective, as much as you need to be prepared to deal with Drunk Liam who is irate because no one wants to hear his rendition of Bruce Springsteen hits.

Restaurant shifts taught me to expect the unexpected. In writing, as in dining, there’s always a Drunk Liam or a curveball client. Adapting quickly is the secret sauce to consistent, quality writing.

3. Budgeting Time Like Tips

Cash management? Think time management. Saving time for passion projects, like setting aside tips, is crucial. Allocating writing hours wisely lets me explore, create, and serve up fresh content regularly.

4. Own Your Unique Voice

People telling you that you’re too smart to be a waitress will do two things for you.

A. Irritate you beyond belief.

B. Secure you in your pride in whatever you do.

I apologize gentleman getting drunk on his lunch break if I don’t take your opinion to heart, but just because a career as a server exists outside your realm of 9-5 certainly does not mean it is not a very respectable life choice. Dealing with opinions on any front is going to prepare you to do the things you care about unapologetically and with great pride.

The next time a Judgy Steve questions my dreams or my writing style, I’ll remember my pride from my serving days. Each voice has its charm, it’s audience. Authenticity in narrative, as in service, is key.

5. We all Win in Boundariesville

I hate to say it, but there is a certain kind of person that gets the impression that because you are kindly conversing with them, and because they are tipping you, you owe them more than great service and timely beverages.

No sir, I don’t need a ride home.

No sir, I’m not interested in hearing your band play.

Just as I knew when to decline that ride offer, setting boundaries with clients ensures healthy working relationships. It’s about understanding mutual respect in the content creation dance.

6. Don’t Dwell on a Misspelled Word

If you were to stress about all the things that go wrong in a single serving shift, you would be in a constant flow of tears, fighting off a nervous breakdown.

Although a great dining experience for everyone involved is the goal, at the end of the day, it is just food, and it is just one night. You can’t please everyone, so take a deep breath and try not to take it personally.

Own your mistake, and clean up your mess, then move on with a smile. Repeat. In the writing world, as in the service industry, errors are inevitable. It’s how you handle and learn from them that makes the difference.

7. Positivity: The Best Co-Author

Don’t get me wrong, some of the closest friendships are birthed out of a mutual sense of rage over someone snapping their fingers for a beverage. But, the key is to laugh it off because you know that you are in control of this human’s food and beverage expedition.

The power of maintaining a positive attitude will not only affect you but all the people around you. So, say bye to the drama, and just get on with appreciating all the finer individuals around you. There are more good people in the world than bad, don’t let those with bad manners ruin your day. Focus on the good to keep creativity flowing. Embracing the good, the joy and the positives shapes narratives that resonate, inspire, and engage.

8. Efficiently Weaving Tales

One of the keys to maintaining your sanity in the service industry is the ability to stay calm in times of heavy stress. In order to do this successfully all you have to do is plan, prioritize, anticipate, delegate, and decide while smiling and maintaining delightful conversations. Easy, right?

Um, no. Which is what makes it such a valuable lesson. Juggling orders taught me to multitask. In writing, this translates to managing projects, optimizing creativity, and delivering on deadlines. Plus, sneaking in those delightful moments of pure creative indulgence.

9. An Attitude of Gratitude Enriches Narratives

The hard truth is that hard work can often go unnoticed and unappreciated. To maintain your sanity, and your positivity, you better get to work finding things to be grateful for in every moment.

I’m so grateful for that nice couple who complimented my service.

I’m so grateful for Alicia for helping me run my drinks.

I’m so grateful that there is a bar between me and Miss Likes To Beckon Me With a Whistle.

Summoning the attitude of gratitude will get you through some very hard moments. Every positive review, every happy reader, is a moment of gratitude. Celebrating small wins fuels the journey, enriching the stories we tell.

10. Deep breathing + Empathy = Jedi Master of Patience

This one is not always easy. The bitterness that creeps up when someone requests their eggs poached halfway between soft and medium while calling you “Sweetie”, and drilling you about the menu prices requires a special kind of deep breathing. An exercise I’m glad to say can help you greatly in many aspects of your life.

Some people are having a worse day than you, and have been looking forward to perfectly poached eggs all week. Just refill their coffee, and get them their eggs. Similarly, understanding and serving a diverse clientele is a skill that translates perfectly to understanding and addressing your target audience’s needs and pain points in your writing.

Patience is a writer’s ally. Just as I learned to empathize with demanding diners, understanding the reader’s perspective, nuances, and needs shapes compelling narratives.

Key Takeaway:

Whether serving up dishes or dishing out words, there’s an art and strategy to it all. As Sandra Bullock said, “Once a waitress, always a waitress.” And sometimes, those skills serve you in places you’d never expect.

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