DETROIT (WWJ) – There are more than 1,500 different cards to choose from this Valentine’s Day, but have you ever wondered who writes all those mushy poems inside?
WWJ’s Sandra McNeill talked to a former journalist who found the dream job he never thought he would have — at Hallmark.
Jake Gahr, who spent part of his childhood in Michigan, always loved to write cards and poems for family and friends. One poem he penned for his parents’ anniversary went over particularly well.
“My wife one day said ‘Well, have you ever thought about writing for Hallmark,'” he said. “I was in a job I didn’t care for in sales and so I went ahead and at the time Hallmark happened to be hiring.”
And so began Gahr’s decade-long career with the greeting cards giant.
“Over the 11 years I’ve been here, I’ve written over 2,600 cards. That’s not necessarily all out in the stores, but they’re there ready to be made when it’s time,” he said. “It’s so much fun and honestly, the people that work here, many of them stay here for a long, long time. It’s a super fun job.”
He’s not just sitting around in pajamas all day, sipping coffee, either. Like most people, Gahr works a regular 40 hour workweek in an office.
“What a day consists of is we’ll often kick off a project on a Monday, and that’s a meeting with editors, editorial directors and sometimes the art directors, and they’ll tell us what they’re looking for. And basically we’ll go back to our desks and just sit and write as much as we can,” he said.
And with Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending occasion, writers have their work cut out for them. Gahr says his wife serves as a main source of inspiration when it comes to all those lovey-dovey sayings.
“A lot of times I give her a card that I wrote and I’m able to say this is about you. So yeah, that wins me a few points,” he said. “My favorite one, the card said ‘Love your heart, love your soul, love your everything,’ and then on the inside it said ‘Love me.’ It’s not my favorite because it’s the most amazing piece of writing but it’s my favorite because I was thinking of my wife. And I gave it to her and that one stayed on our mantel for quite a long time.”
Coming up with unique greeting card sayings might sound easy, but it’s tougher than it seems — especially when you’re expected to just keep pumping them out.
“Sometimes if I’m grumpy, the card that I start with might not be all that sweet,” Gahr said with a laugh. “The blank page is my biggest enemy. So if I’m not feeling it, I still just try to kind of put something down and then work through, you know, whether it’s working or not.”
The toughest part of the job, Gahr says, is seeing that big, red rejection X.
“I probably write maybe 30 cards a week and maybe 10 of those actually become cards,” he said. “That was one of the hardest things to get used to, was the rejection. But luckily we work with a lot of nice people so they’re able to let you down pretty easily.”
At the end of the day, Gahr said the one feeling his job leaves him with is fulfillment.
“It really feels good to know that at least in a small way, we’re helping people connect and celebrate with each other and comfort each other in those harder times,” he said. “We want to be able to help someone say the things that are on their minds and in their hearts, but they just don’t have necessarily the creative and crafted words for.”