Is this what being a “real writer” is all about?

Pen and paper

I’ve been wondering lately if I’m a real writer.

Not a deep, existential level of wondering, like Am I a real person or a figment of some stoned alien’s imagination? I’m just questioning the generally accepted definition of “true writerhood”, and dispatching it from my mind.

According to the almighty internet, a “real writer” lives for her writing, continuously strives to live off writing, always worries about her writing and the workings of the industry, and basically interprets and incorporates everything into her writing and the other way around. Anything less than that is generally considered lack of dedication, or even indicative of a wannabe or impostor.

Right?

You wake up, you think of your writing. You have lunch with your friends, you think of your writing. You eat dinner at home with your significant other and think of your writing. Ideally, you squeeze in tons of actual writing in between all your thinking about your writing, and preferably some quality reading too. You invest every ounce of spunk within you planning (or dreaming about) your writing career, and investigating the careers of other authors. And blogging, social media, marketing, branding, networking, learning, talking and worrying about the writing craft. Right?

RIIIGHT?

Well… What if writing isn’t everything for me?

*gasp of horror*

I don’t have only this ONE major interest in life, this one single major thing that helps me determine who I am and defines me as a person—as one can easily assume is necessary from all the blogs and websites about what it means to be a “true writer”. I am not just interested and invested in writing fiction, I have other interests and things I love. And sometimes, I’m simply caught up in other things and don’t have the time or desire to invest a lot of energy in writing (or blogging about it) at that time.

*muse faints theatrically in the background*

Now, does that mean that I’m not a real writer?

That I’m wannabe?

Or—gasp—an impostor?

And what about this whole career thing. The “writing career”. Everything seems to be geared toward it, and I mean everything. From the genre we’re choosing, to the themes and protagonists we’re focusing our efforts on, to the publishing means (traditional or self), to marketing, our online image (branding), our social media presence, our every comment on other blogs, the friends we choose and things we say.

Sacrifice everything and a goat on the altar of the AUTHOR CAREER, or be eternally damned to live in desolation!

*points crooked staff at random people*

But what if I don’t want a career in writing?

I already have a good full-time job, which I can’t imagine giving up and trying and make a living writing fiction (an insane move where I live, anyway). Unless I get a guarantee that I’ll earn half as much as James Patterson, Danielle Steele or Stephen King… But seriously, I’m not interested in becoming a “career author”, someone who writes for a living, someone famous who gets invited to talk shows or universities to give speeches. I am not even interested in climbing up on such-and-such bestseller list and bask in that brief glory for the rest of my life.

But—BUT—to say so is blasphemy in the online realm of writerdom. To say one does not crave the title of “professional author with a successful career” is to say one isn’t worthy of respect and attention. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot, when everyone is aiming at the sky. Heck, if I’m not hunting the Holy Grail of Writerhood, I might as well stay behind with the cattle and the mediocre, and quietly stir my pot of mediocre tears, mkay?

Everything we writers do online—the career-oriented and us creepy others—is talk about writing. Almost every writer blog out there is about the front or backside of writing. There are so few author blogs that are primarily about SOMETHING ELSE, another passion of that complex wonderful being that is also a writer, and only marginally about the writing craft and industry, that it’s easy to assume you need to be constantly obsessed with writing in order to be accepted. It’s easy to assume you aren’t a real writer if you have other preoccupations (sometimes even more dominant than your writing), or if you don’t strive to make a living from your fiction.

Yes, I love writing fiction and I really enjoy talking about it. But my whole life does not revolve around it, and I can’t obsess about it online all the time.

Does that mean I’m not a true writer if I’m not constantly absorbed by fiction or talking about it?

Is my life less worthy of respect if I don’t earn my living writing fiction?

Bullshit!

With a cherry on top.

I’m a writer as long as writing is a passion of mine, regardless of the percentage of life I dedicate to it.

As for the expectations and pressures from the online realm, making us feel inadequate if we’re anything but frantic about writing all the time? Well, fuck that noise!

I say live first, understand your life and that of others, and when you write, write with your heart and your entire being, not just your fingers, not with your eyes fixed on some damn word-meter, not with your back ridden by the fear of failure or the desire to please others. Live your life through body and mind, and then live it again through your words.

Writing isn’t about fitting into a preset definition or following an agenda. It’s about YOU discovering yourself and the world through the beauty of your own CREATIVITY, and taking others along with you if they are up for the ride.

THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT.

*lifts chin*

And ice cream.

*drops mic*

*returns to knitting her astronaut suit*

 

So what are your thoughts? Your little brain demons?

Where do you stand on the ultra-dedicated, exclusive “writing career” thing?

If you’re pursuing it and are honestly invested in it, good for you. What did you have to give up for it? Do you have doubts?

And if you’re not pursuing a writing career by the book, but simply living out your love of fiction on the side, how do you feel about expressing that online? Are you wary of being looked down upon by other [aspiring] writers? What was your experience in that area so far?

I’d love to hear your opinion!

22 Replies to “Is this what being a “real writer” is all about?”

  1. *slurps morning coffee, chuckling*

    I don’t know where the idea of being looked down upon comes from, but maybe I have too few writer buddies and I’m not part of any writing groups. (Good for me. I would die in that environment.)

    I never questioned my identity as a writer–the one who writes, finishes projects, AND publishes those. That’s all. I don’t obsess about it, I probably won’t be doing public appearances even if one day fame will get knocking at my door (heck, I would hunt down and kill anyone who snaps my photo without asking). I will hide in a deepest cave and continue to write what I like. And doing other things, with passion. It will not make me less of a writer.

    Tho it happens sometimes, I don’t like talking about writing online or anywhere else, in fact; I like discussing written, but not the technical part of it. If my books will bring me readership (hence, money), that means I’m doing something right. To me, writing is not a career, it’s a lifestyle. I’ve been like this forever.

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    1. I’m with you on that one, Jelena — writing is not a career for me, it’s a lifestyle. A passion I have had since childhood, and which I will always have.

      But we’re [more or less] rare birds within the grand online writer community. Most fellow writers strive to build a steady career in writing. And it’s really easy to become obsessive about it if you listen to the many voices out there roaring about professional writing careers.

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      1. But what is this “career in writing”?

        It comes down to a cycle of
        writing–> publishing–> gaining audience& getting paid –> writing more

        It’s the same as any other job out there. Some want it as the only job,some don’t. As long as the passion is there, everyone is doing fine. Writing is still a lot of work.

        Both approaches are writing careers. You are allowed to have multiple careers in your lifetime. You can be a writer and something else. Why the heck not?
        You and you alone give yourself that permission. Everyone else can just shut the fuck up. If they have time to make noise, they aren’t doing enough writing in their “writing careers”. That’s what wannabes do.

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      2. What the writerverse calls a “professional writing career”, is usually the only career someone has, and it implies writing so-and-so many books a year, going to all conventions and conferences, taking courses and sticking with the “cool crowd” in all the “cool places”, and even going to universities to teach creative writing or give extracurricular lectures about writing.

        It means you’re supposed / expected to have no other major preoccupation in your life (except maybe your family) and invest every single thing you do into that one glorious writing career. It’s not supposed to just happen, it’s supposed to be your agenda, your ONLY agenda and purpose. It’s usually not understood to be “the preoccupation of writing and publishing now and then“, on the side of having a life that’s unrelated to writing.

        That’s the obsessive career fantasy I was talking about. That’s the vibe I get from sooo many places. It’s all over the internet, which is why I haven’t been spending much time around online writing places over the past few months. I grew sick of it. 🙂 And I wanted to see who else of you great peeps is on the outside of that noise.

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      3. That’s truly sounds like a fantasy. The consequences of such thinking would be something like: “How dare you being famous while not taking ‘writing career’ seriously?! I spent years sweating blood, getting out there! How dare you not doing things as I do and having easier life?”

        Well, we are serious about things we do, no? Because we love doing them. That’s why people succeed. 😉

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  2. With the exception of your blog, I rarely venture to any writer’s writing blog and almost never post about writing on my own blog. For me, writing is a medium, the means to an end, but not the end in itself. Sure, I’d love to be a fulltime writer but, realistically, to have that as a goal would be disheartening because it’s so @#%$ far beyond where I am today.

    I write because I love the challenge of expressing ideas in a coherent fashion and try to craft stories with some depth of thinking behind them. Hopefully, readers will find that appealing 🙂

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    1. After spending the past few months away from all the “writing world noise”, I’ve just skimmed my blog subscription list and cleaned out all the tiresome, nagging and repeating blogs about how to become a successful writer and whatnot. I am so tired of all that. Yes, honing one’s skill is important, as is having a clue about the industry and one’s genre, but that’s about it. Everything beyond that is also beyond my scope. I was never interested in earning a living with my fiction, only in creating stories and sharing my passion with others. Just as you said.

      And thanks a lot for sticking around my blog, Peter. 🙂

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  3. I think part of being a writer is having other interests. A writer who thinks only of their writing and has no time for other interests and experiences is a writer who writes very boring books. The phrase write what you know is used a lot and it is important. If all you know is the craft of writing then that’s all you’re able to write about. The best writers are those with many other facets of their life which they let feed into their writing, whether that’s an interest in astronomy, a military background or anything else.

    As for myself, I’d quite like to make writing into a career at some point in the future but I accept that that’s unlikely. I’m someone who’s just starting out on her writing career and I’ve a long way to go before publication. But I’ve got other interests too, I’m studying to be a pharmacist right now and that’s also something I’m passionate about. I’d like to be a great writer but I’m not willing to give up everything else in my life for it. I’m happy living my life and writing for myself and if at some point in the future someone would like to pay me for it then all the better.

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    1. Absolutely right, Jennifer! Thanks for commenting.

      “I’d like to be a great writer but I’m not willing to give up everything else in my life for it.”

      This is exactly what I meant. There are so many other things in life that are fascinating, gratifying and often very fulfilling.

      My other major hobby is psychology (and its plethora of related sciences like psychiatry and neuropsychology), and a bunch of practical things one does out of the house. I could not imagine narrowing myself down onto just one thing, even if I love that thing, as I love writing.

      Good luck with your writing and your studies, and with everything else that makes life a joy! 🙂

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  4. I love your blogs, Veronica, and I hope you never stop posting at least once in a while. 😀

    As for gaining acceptance as a ‘writer’, I blew that off a year or so ago. The men in my writer’s critique group would regale me with tales from the 80’s of epic writing conventions and ‘how it was done’ back then. ie drugged up agents slobbering all over newbie writers etc. They impressed upon me just how fruitless a writing career really is (they had both been writing for 25 years with little to show) and how I should just ‘get used to rejection’ as it was par for the course.

    All the while I was watching the Kindle market, noting new authors and old, reading horrid pieces of crap and sifting through all the fodder to find some really cool new reads. I don’t want acceptance. Acceptance is a trap, a methodology for society to ensure we independent types tow the line, so to speak. That while we may toil away at home, pounding our keyboards and slurping our caffeine, we are still seeking to make the ominous powers-that-be happy; instead of ourselves.

    Fuck that.

    I want to make ME happy. And if that means dipping my toe (ok, diving in head first) to the indie publishing market, then so be it. I picked up a kindle ebook on self- publishing not too long ago that called it ‘artisanal publishing’. I like that. Unlike many of the indie authors I have encountered, I’m not looking for validation or a quick buck. I want to produce a piece of quality literature that I am not only proud of, but hopefully others will enjoy as well. I want to touch the lives of many with the words of a few. My characters, although fictional, have a story to tell. One that has not let me go for over 8 years. I HAVE to tell this story and I don’t give a good-god-damn if New york likes it or not. As long as people read it and find it has value I will work to produce more quality work.

    *steps down off soap box*
    *ahem*

    That is all. 🙂

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    1. “I’m not looking for validation or a quick buck. I want to produce a piece of quality literature that I am not only proud of, but hopefully others will enjoy as well. […] My characters, although fictional, have a story to tell. One that has not let me go for over 8 years. I HAVE to tell this story and I don’t give a good-god-damn if New york likes it or not.”

      THIS! YES!!!

      Thank you Aubrey!

      The air is truly fresher out here in the open, than it is in there with the desperate crowd.

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    1. Come to think of it, you’re right. It would become something I had to do to stay alive, and rob it of the adventurous flavor. 🙂

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  5. An interesting perspective as usual, Veronica. I started writing some years ago because I had stories in my head that refused to remain, thoughts only. I don’t spend every waking moment on it, but I do treat it as a serious job, now that I have time for it. I attracted the attention of an agent who believes in me, which changed everything. Now, I have to live up to expectations.

    On the blog side, I agree that we have way too many articles on “the craft”. I throw one out on occasion, but try to blog about other things, especially if it has bearing on one or more of my brands (dystopia, sci-fi). Those are more fun.

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    1. I too want to try traditional publishing first, and I’d love to write and publish throughout my life. It would certainly contribute to my happiness, as I’m sure it does to yours. I’m just once and for all through with paying attention to the noise about “professional career writers” (a very skewed image online, anyway) and focus on what I want and expect of myself first and foremost.

      And yeah, I’ve blogged a lot about the craft and such, and I enjoyed it. But there is so much more about creativity that I wish to explore with you guys, and so I’m going to part ways with “how to” blog posts. For now at least. 😉

      Thanks a lot for the comment, and good luck with your projects DT!

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  6. That’s why probably 30% of my posts have nothing to do with writing. Back in the day, my blog used to be about weird and funny side of science…with a hint of the paranormal. So I have to stick some of that stuff in there to keep my sanity.

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  7. Nicely put, Vero. Most of us write because we want too, not because we have too. We also want to do other things. About time somebody said it. To add a few seasoned logs to the fire, blog articles about the writing craft have reached spam proportions. Not that a some bloggers aren’t good at it, but we’ve descended to wordsmithing the same stuff. I do wish to see one of my stories in print some day, but I’m not going to short-circuit my life to get there.

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  8. Great blog, and excellent perspective on this topic.

    I feel like I stumbled on this post at exactly the right time. My blog posts on writing have garnered some small attention (yay!), which had me wondering if I could now go on to talk about anything else without alienating a budding readership (boo). There’s so much I want to say about my academic interests, academic publishing, travelling, and gaming, and all the wonderfully inextricable passions that are crucial to my happiness and identity. Seeing how you’ve put this out there… well, let’s just say I’m a lot less reserved now. Thank you.

    I love the adage that the best writers do more than just write, because, honestly, how well can you write about life without having gone out and lived it?

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    1. Thanks for commenting and sharing your view on this, Michelle!

      I’m glad you could eliminate some of the fear of blogging about anything else but writing. It’s a pity most writers lose themselves in the immense sea of writing advice blogs instead of shining through their personality—and our individual interests and opinions are the best agents to carry bits of our personality out there.

      I’ll also devote more time to blog about my other interests soon. I can’t wait for this scary new stage! 😀

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