I’ve never participated in a blog chain before, but this month I took a leap and signed myself up. Each person in the chain is supposed to take something from the previous blogger’s post, and make it their own. My precedents include
Ralph Pines, who talked about “Anxieties, Frustrations, and Self-Imposed Deadlines”
Now it’s my turn. I wanted to discuss the definition of a writer. In other words, what makes a real writer? Everyone can write. Some of us are good at it. A few even get published. Wonder of wonders, there’s even those lucky blokes that get published and keep getting published, like, for a living. Does that make you a writer? A real writer? If not, what does?
First, why should it even matter?
This is about personal validation. It’s got something to do with how far you’ll go and how long you’ll last. We writers need to feel that we’ve made it, somehow, that we’ve accomplished what we set out to do, that we aren’t just deceiving ourselves.
Writing is deceptive profession. You think you create something golden, then it turns out to be crap. You think you’ve perfected it, then you find yet another mismatched simile. One reader loves it, another hates it. We can’t ever trust ourselves.
Some people have what it takes and some don’t. We want to be the ones who do. So we look for an expert. We try to figure it all out. But this is where it gets tricky – there is no true definition for what makes a writer or not. You can publish novel after novel, then loose your drive for no reason. You can write your whole life and never get published. For every definition you come up with, there’s a caveat.
But there are a few qualities that narrow it down.
The ability to produce.
Every single person in the world has a story to tell, and most of them know it. Many people want to write a novel “someday.” That doesn’t cut it. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Talking about it won’t work. Learning about it isn’t enough. Having written before means you were a writer, once; but that doesn’t mean you are one now. You have to begin and you have to finish.
The thing about production is that it doesn’t always equal passion. I’ve heard stories of people who wrote well, even had a successful career in publishing, and then gave it up because it just wasn’t what they wanted to do. They lacked an inner drive. They enjoyed the act of being a writer, but they didn’t love it, with all its faults and bad days and low times.
Here’s your first key: real writers like what they do, bad parts included.
Success, publication, and recognition.
You have to take writing seriously. If you’ve been at this for twenty years and never entered any contests, never subbed to a literary magazine, never won anything or published anything at all, there’s something wrong. Some people need to take it slow. I understand that. But at some point you have to take that step.
Let’s realize that publishing credits won’t make you a writer. They’ll just make you published. In a similar manner, a lack of credits doesn’t make you a lost cause. The problem here is why – why haven’t you taken this next step?
Perhaps you lack a personal drive. Perhaps you’re bogged down by fear. Maybe you’re refusing to grow, or maybe you just need a good old kick in the butt. Whatever the reason, it’s holding you back. A real writer works through their problems and around their deficiencies.
Second key: a real writer isn’t stopped by their faults.
The personal drive.
The personal drive.
Most everyone who starts writing has a personal drive. They have an inner desire to explore the world, or a love for their premise/characters/wordplay, or the knowledge that if they don’t write, they’ll be miserable.
I’ve heard people say that they write because they have to. I understand that, but I don’t like it. It suggest that they don’t enjoy what they do. We’ve already established that one element of a real writer is that they love the job, fallacies and all. So this mindset can be dangerous.
Now, you can loose the drive. Too much production causes you to burnout, leaving you blocked and drained. Sometimes it takes an entire career to recharge. But burnout doesn’t last forever. It may take a very long time, but you will get your creativity back.
And here’s your third key: a real writer never stops being a real writer.
The ability to overcome.
I think in the end, this is what separates someone who writes from a real writer. The ability to overcome. You have to be able to work without inspiration, through low places, despite tight deadlines; basically, you have to get over yourself. Some people struggle more than others. A real writer may struggle, but in the end, they overcome.
Let me put it another way: if you are a real writer, you can loose the battle, but you’ll never stop fighting the war.
And that’s the final key. A real writer will never completely stop fighting the war. They may go on a hiatus, or they may burnout, or they may struggle through a lifetime of fear, but in the end they always come back and start fighting again.
If you’d like to check out the next link in the chain, here’s a list of all the participating bloggers:
Okay. Rant over. I realize this post wasn’t exactly on-topic; however, I think Sassee’s post on procrastination does tie into this. Some people adopt an attitude when they talk about procrastination, like it makes you less of a writer. I disagree. I think we’ve all been there at one point, and if you have, you know it’s not just about how lazy a person is. It really is a struggle and a trial. I wanted to explain that someone can have procrastination problems and still be as much of a writer as the rest of us.
I realize this post wasn’t exactly on-topic; however, I think Sassee’s post on procrastination does tie into this. Some people adopt an attitude when they talk about procrastination, like it makes you less of a writer. I disagree. I think we’ve all been there at one point, and if you have, you know it’s not just about how lazy a person is. It really is a struggle and a trial. I wanted to explain that someone can have procrastination problems and still be as much of a writer as the rest of us.
Until next time,