Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Writers Write

Seems like an obvious statement. Right? Writers write. Not every once in a while. Not just when the mood strikes us. Not just when we're bored, or have nothing else to do. Not even only when we can jam it in between all the rest of life's activities.

The reason I mention this is because of a post my blog-buddy, JenWriter, mentioned this morning. The linked post is by Lilith Saintcrow over at Fur, Fangs and Fey. IMO, it's a hell of a post, and so true I didn't think anyone could have a problem with it. If you read the comments, you'll see someone did (at least one person anyway - I didn't read all the comments because they were starting to rub my fur the wrong way).

Lilith's point seems to be this: Writers are people who take writing seriously. She even goes so far as to say that if you aren't writing every day, you really shouldn't be calling yourself a writer - at least not in the professional sense of the word. Think about it. If you're just mucking around writing here and there, are you really a professional writer? Or is this a hobby for you? Sure, you may really want to be a writer - with all your heart - but if you aren't really doing it, you're failing at the necessary part of being a writer.

Hell, I wanted to be a writer for years (YEARS). I started a half dozen books, short stories, poems. But I never finished a damn thing (and by finished, I mean not only getting all the way to 'THE END' but polishing enough to make them readable). None of that made me a writer, no matter how much I wanted it.

I started my first book when I was 14. It's moldering in a blue folder in a box in a closet somewhere in this house. It's half finished, and it'll stay that way. I also have a folder full of poems from around the same time. I wasn't a writer then, no matter how much work I put out. Over the years, I started several other books, wrote more poems, and a few shorts. Every time I started writing, I let something get in my way - the significant other who was jealous of my writing time, motherhood, work... Ad infinitum. Most everything I ever wrote prior to 2004 is incomplete and gathering dust somewhere. I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of words I'd written during those spurts, but those words didn't make me a writer.

What made me a writer was when I finally took writing seriously. I sat down to write a book, and told myself I was going to finish it. I promised myself that no matter what else happened, I was going to get to "THE END". I made myself learn about the industry and sent out queries, wrote synopses, polished until my manuscripts bled red ink. And you know what? I still didn't consider myself a writer. IMO, I hadn't earned the right to call myself one yet. Why?

At that point, I was still writing in fits and starts. Whenever the mood struck me. Not every day, or even every other day. Hell, there were other important things I needed to do - like watching every back episode of Charmed, and reruns of The Nanny. Oh, and the few weeks we got free Cinemax definitely needed to be attended to. During this early time - mid-2004 - I didn't even have homeschooling to contend with, but with all the other things calling for my attention, I just didn't have the time to write.

Pardon me while I barf.

When my husband and I were courting, he asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I wanted to write, but then groused about not having the time, not having a quiet place to work in, having to work a full time job... He told me that if I wanted to write, I should write, and to quit making excuses for not writing. It was a real kick in the ass, and it was just what I needed.

I got the first book done in 9 months. Okay, not really done. I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and I only thought it was done. I sent out a few queries and the subsequent rejections sent me scurrying to hide under the bed. I stopped writing. Which is just as well, since I wasn't really a writer. The missing piece was still missing. I wasn't committed to writing.

It wasn't until late 2006 that I think I really could carry the title of WRITER with pride. I made a choice to work. I promised myself I was going to write every day (or barring that, at least do something writerly every day). And for the most part, I kept that promise.

Don't get me wrong. I don't write reams of words every day. Some days, the most I can do is some plotting or some editing or at the minimum, research. That has nothing to do with time. It has to do with my brain and its abilities to form coherent sentences. I also fall down sometimes and don't write for days. (Don't even get me started on the guilt that comes from those interludes.) Every once in a while, I even let myself have a mini-vacation between books.

But no matter what, I get back to work, and I work hard. It's all about commitment, folks.

If you're committed to writing, and it's an honest commitment, you'll find the time and you'll get your butt in that chair every day. Some days finding the time will be hard. Life's rough all over.

Look around you. There are writers with full time jobs, with physical disabilities, with a half dozen kids, with demanding and unappreciative spouses, who homeschool their kids, with life-threatening illnesses, who run their own companies... etc. What's the difference between them and the millions of people who want to be writers and aren't?


So before you take issue with someone else calling into question whether you can call yourself a writer, take a look at your priorities, and ask yourself how committed you are to the task. If you can't find a few minutes to make writing a priority, can you really wear the title with honor, or are you just fooling yourself?

Just something to think about.

1 comment:

WordVixen said...

I agree completely. I still say that I "want to be" a writer. I don't say "wanna be" though, as that smacks of Rabbitania. :)

But then, there are so many kinds of writers. If someone writes freelance, and is working on a novel, I still would consider them a writer, even though their day job of writing gets in the way of their creative writing. And blogging just totally muddies the water as it's still writing. Unpolished, usually. Personal journaling, often. Still, writing.

I often differentiate by saying writer, or Writer. Writer being professional, writer just being "someone who writes" regardless of type. :)