I am not a militant writer

In my mind, I’m a writer. I can’t really define for you what that means, though, because being a writer can be anything from someone who writes “regularly enough” (another undefinable term) to a poet, novelist or person who makes a living by some other form of writing.

I don’t really think it’s up to me to tell any other person whether they are a writer or not, nor do I think it is my place to tell anyone what it takes to be a writer.

I think you just figure that one out on your own.

Where am I going with this line of thinking? And what started it?

Well, there’s a writers’ site I stumbled across a few months ago thanks to a fellow writer. Coincidentally, it’s based in South Africa. That’s two of my favourite things in one place: all things writerly and South Africa. It should, therefore, be my ideal virtual hangout. And for the most part, this site does inspire me. I don’t always use its daily prompts but I like them. I enjoy the writers it features almost daily. I laugh along at the nerdy writer jokes.

The other day, I noticed a post on their Facebook site about making realistic writing resolutions. Personally, I prefer goals to resolutions, but whatever. I clicked into the post and started reading. Fairly quickly, I began to recoil. I noticed a bad taste in my mouth. A little bit of a grimace on my face. I read to the end, arguing with many of the points in my head, closed the page and continued on with my day.

That was two days ago. The post is still on my mind. Why is it still on my mind? Why is it still making me a little bit sad?

Because when I read their definition of a true writer, I thought “this isn’t me.” I’m not ruthless as they say I must be, forsaking my family and all else to write.

If you use your social life, your friends, your family, and your job as an excuse not to write, you are probably never going to be a writer.

– Writers Write

Well, I don’t know about that. I think we all allow life to get in the way of our writing at some point, even the most serious writers out there.

Writers have to be selfish. They stand at the edge of society and observe. Even when they are in the middle of an important work commitment, about to have a baby, studying for an exam, getting married or getting divorced, dealing with a serious illness, moving to a new country, moving house, cooking dinner for the family, or looking after a sick child, they write.

– Writers Write

Yes and no. I agree that in all those situations there are wonderful opportunities offering fertile ground to germinate ideas. I have, after all, carried my phone around through many similar experiences, jotting down observations and ideas.

But many of these events do put pause to my actual writing. I don’t think interacting with the life and the events swirling around makes me – or you – any less of a writer.

I would, in fact, argue that stepping out of the act of writing and into life actually allows you to experience more than remaining an aloof observer would, and that it is precisely this life experience which fuels the writer’s mind and imagination. When I am really stuck, the best thing for me is to stop observing, to stop trying to see everything as a possible twist or turn in a story and to just be in the moment.

But that’s just the way I work.

Every writer has to find their own way.

Maybe the folks at Writers Write wouldn’t consider me a true writer. Perhaps that is what has really been preying on my mind the past two days; that I am not a true writer. In my mind, though, I am. And I don’t think I need to justify my means or methods to anyone except perhaps myself.

Having dealt with that issue, all that is left nagging me is that I vehemently disagree with the idea of anyone decreeing what makes someone a writer, and (more than that) what makes someone not a writer. I don’t like the militant approach, I guess.

I will allow that the five top tips provided at the end of the post in question do make sense. They are probably good practices to put in place if you are writing a novel or some other monumental writing project. And they probably would be useful, slightly modified, for people wishing to write more often or to improve their writing.

So, I guess if you can get past the first part of the post, the tips themselves might be worth considering.

I’m not going to stop following the site. And I have sort of half promoted it for others out there who might be interested in writing sites. But I did feel it necessary to work through my gut response to the opinions expressed, and to share with the rest of you my belief that you can be a writer and also live an involved and engaged life.

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7 thoughts on “I am not a militant writer

  1. I agree with the the… name? phrase? signature?? Writers write. But I think something that is truly missed in those posts is that fact that a writer can not write something he does not experience. The best writing is one that the writer can emotionally attach him/herself too because that seeps onto the page and grips the reader. It’s a mirroring psychological thing. So, if all you do is observe, I don’t know that you can be a writer. You can be a list maker. You can be a journalist (ok, they write, but you know what I mean).

    Observation is important, but so is living. Better said, I think it should read.. Writers live. Then, writers write.

    That’s just my opinion though.. but who’s to say, maybe I’m not a writer either.

    • Very true and insightful. It’s funny, as I was listing poets and novelists, I thought of journalists too but held off mentioning them and instead lumped them in with all the others who write for a living. So I get what you mean, yes.

      Maybe whether we are writers or not – the label itself – is not the important thing anyway. Maybe we aren’t writers, maybe we are people who enjoy writing? It probably doesn’t matter. Best not to take oneself too seriously!

  2. Well, it looks like you are developing a very beautiful critical mind of a writer. Our family, friends, work mates, … are all jist for the writing mill. Being in the moment can present some of the greatest opportunities and possibilities for a great piece of writing. Keep doing what you are doing, it is working and I enjoy your creative pieces. Happy New Year!!

    • Thank you, Mary! You are quite right, too; I find myself in moments that capture my imagination and inspire me and that’s where I get my best stories and poems from. Happy New Year to you too!

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