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.