What Is A Writer?

This past August, I found myself in the good fortune of being asked to join a local writers group. The group is small but has several published authors in its midst. Something that is a goal of mine. Don’t get me wrong, dear readers, I will still write and publish on this and possibly other blogs for as long as that medium is viable, but there is a part of me that wants to be out there. That wants to be able to walk through an airport and see my books in the overpriced ‘newsstands’ where haggard travelers are buying overpriced tap water in bottles they have no intention of reusing or recycling.

That is the dream. Or one of them anyway.

Back to the group.  Yesterday was one of two of the meetings we have monthly. And a conversation started (possibly by me) about how “non-writers” always seemed to want to help us in our quest.

Side Note: Before I go further in this post, I would like to mention one thing. I have struggled with whether or not to even put this post out here or leave it in my paper journals to languish in obscurity until long after my death.  In the end, I decided to throw it up here. It will still be every bit as obscure, but there is at least a chance it will resonate with one of the seven of you that normally read this blog. That, or you’ll think me a bigger prig than you already do. Either way, here we go.

I commented on the fact that writing was a creative art and profession unlike any other in one simple respect: In due course of traversing the primary eduction system in this country and others, we are all taught how to write. The mechanics.  The structure of writing. The rules, if you will.  Those are all things we are taught and things upon which we are graded for at least a cursory understanding of the fundamentals.

Because of that education, I think there is a certain dismissal by the general populous when someone says they are a ‘writer.’  If you’re not as famous as Stephen King or (insert your favorite author here), then the assumption is that you’re doing it as a hobby or that you’re not necessarily a great writer because they haven’t heard of you or seen you in the airport overpriced ‘newsstands.’ 

So along with the, “Oh? A writer, huh? Have I read any of your work?” line of questioning and down the nose glances invariably comes the next line, “I’ve been meaning to write a book. I just haven’t had the time (or some other logical sounding excuse here).”

When I encounter these folks (some of whom are friends, family, or co-workers), my first line of defense is a polite smile. I also tend to encourage people to write. Because, yes, I believe that everyone can write–mechanically. And it’s a good way to clear your head of cob-webs.

But just because you write, it doesn’t make you a Writer.  And that’s really where the conversation centered in our little tete-a-tete on Saturday.

I know how to play football. I know the mechanics of the game. I know the rules. I know the positions, formations, theories, etc. I don’t, however, have the burning drive to make it big in professional football. Nor would I think it anywhere near my place to, if I found myself conversing with someone who did play professional ball, tell them how they would best improve their game. I don’t know what process they go through. I don’t know what they’ve gone through to get to where they are. Even if they don’t appear to be successful by whatever standards I deem adequate to measure success in that realm, it is certainly not my place to tell them how to “make it.”

And that’s the funny thing about writing. There is no shortage of advice and well-meaning “criticisms” that come our way as writers.

Pick up a copy of Word and bang out a few paragraphs and suddenly you’re a writer.

But are you? I don’t know.

I guess that goes back to what makes someone a writer? How to you measure success?

At the first meeting I attended of Creative Minds Columbus (the writing group of which I am a part), I was asked by Tim McWhorter if I was having any success at this writing thing. And I didn’t really know how to answer that. I turned it back around and asked what does it mean to be successful as a writer?  And I think I’ve been working through the answer to that question ever since.

Here’s the thing…it’s not really my place to say whether you’re a writer or not. The Blog Phenomenon has opened the door for many people to get their work out there now more than ever before.  But just as the paper publishing world….some of it is brilliant. Some of it is rubbish.  But the only person that knows if they are successful is the person that’s writing.

I look at the number of hits each of my posts get on here. If I get above 30 hits, I know the post has resonated with my friends. The 10 or 15 of you that see the link on Facebook and click over here. If the post gets over 40 or 50 hits, then I know you’ve shared it with people that don’t normally read my blog.

As a writer who wants to be successful, I should really figure out what trends and give you more of that.

But that’s just it. The fact that you come here means I’m successful. It means that there’s something about my voice, my style, or me as a cool dude that you like to peek in on every now and again.

Does that make me a writer?

No. What makes me a writer, in my mind, is the following.

If I go a day without writing something, I feel bad.  There is a physical ache inside.  Much like going to bed on an empty stomach. A day without writing for me is painful.  I don’t have to get 1000 words in to feel sated. I just need to write. Whether it’s in my journal, or here, or jotting down an idea for a book I had while I was in the shower; I just have to write-something.

Much like a gym rat feels like complete shit if they skip a workout, the same is true for me with writing. If I go a day without it, I’m lost. I’m a wreck.

Amongst my friends who are also writers, this seems to be a common thing. The longer they go without any writing at all, the worse their world is (and the world for those around them).

Writers write.

I don’t write because I think it’s a nice hobby. I don’t even write because I think that what I have to say is terribly interesting–I know it’s tripe sometimes.

I write because I have to.  Period.

Even if you never read it, I have to write.

I guess that’s the barometer of whether or not you are a Writer or just someone who writes.
Would you still write even if you knew nobody would read it?

If the answer is yes, then welcome to the wonderful world of pain and misery and inexplicable joy that is writing.

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