Please Kill Me,
It’s hard to say what makes a writer a “writer.” Sure, there are hordes of folk who believe in the old adage, “you’re a writer if you write something.” To some degree, I agree, if only by the strictest definition of the term.
However, when people call themselves writers, something else comes to mind besides the action in and of itself. I’ll reserve the feigned offense but consider this, are you a firefighter just because you’ve doused a flame in your kitchen once or twice? Sort of. For the sake of level understanding, let’s just say that’s not the case.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve written something, whether or not you’ve finished it, I’d still consider you a writer. Rather, the difference that I see is between those willing to run the marathon—over and over again—and those who skip practice and show up on the big day, with new shoes and a budding gut, expecting to win. Truth be told, that individual can’t really expect to be seriously considered among the racers who’ve dedicated blood, sweat, tears, and time. Sure, they’re “runners” but are they really in the race?
I consider true-writers to be craftsman. Similar to a blacksmith (or for the Gen Z’ers, those guys from Game of Thrones always getting killed offscreen). Like any good craftsman (or craftswoman #Feminism) writers dedicate themselves, not only to the work that they produce but to the craft itself. Simply put, if you aren’t working at it, you’re not really doing the thing. It’s okay to be a hobbyist but those of us in that camp should accept the limitations of that slot or step up our respective game.
For the others: the midnight grinders, the commuting creatives, the break-time poets, it’s quite a different scenario than their moonlighting counterparts. These are the people who’ve read everything they could get their hands on and still hunger for more. The dreamers with enough blog-posts and coffee-stained notes to place a unique page on every seat in an arena. The “sick-o’s” who sacrifice their Saturday nights for drunken toiling over outlines for stories that we’ll never see. The people with something to say and a death-pact with the universe to get it said: clearly, coherently, and impactfully. Those are the folk who understand the importance of showing up to practice. And really, that’s the only difference—whether or not you have what it takes to show up. In this way, skill becomes a happy cherry on the creative cake as opposed to the goal.
In contrast to what you may believe, not everyone gets in this thing for the same reason. Obviously, some are in it for the money, credibility, and attention (it should be said that this doesn’t disqualify their ambition). Then there are the romanticizers, who have plenty to say, a fair motivation, or simply have found inspiration from one source or another. Valid.
Others still don’t really have an option—the creativity spills out of them like silicone from a Kardashian crevice. The important thing to remember is that they’ve all have/had to earn it. There aren’t any respectable short-cuts. It’s hardly necessary to distinguish between their reasons. At the end of the day, it’s about how important it is to pursue and give to the craft. Not the amount they produce, mind you, but their ambition, focus, and constant growth—which ultimately dictates their eventual level of skill.
So, if you want to know what it takes, the answer is simple. Sit at that keyboard, as often as you can, and get it done. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you. It doesn’t matter if it’s “good.” What matters is that you’re giving it all you’ve got and you’re working toward a goal where the only guaranteed reward is your own semi-satisfaction with what you’ve created.
What is a writer?
A writer is persistent effort, furious consistency, and a voice that isn’t afraid to earn their time at the microphone.
Like any other title worthy of note, the task is altogether simple and impossible. The question is, are you willing to embark on the journey anyway?
Until Next Time,
Also available on Google Books.