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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
And ice cream.
*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!