While I wouldn’t trade my life as a writer / editor for the world, I’ll also be the first to tell anyone who’s interested that it’s not all cocktail fueled release parties and vetting multimedia release options while fluffing one’s feather boa. Writing well is hard. Writing every day (as one must do) is hard. Putting yourself on paper is hard. Trading your talent for the almighty dollar when the chips are down is hard. Barely making or not making it or being rejected is brutal. And yet the writers keep on writing because while being a writer is hard, it’s also life-giving.
Writer? Author? Is There a Difference?
Like I said, I love being a writer, and like many I also aspire to be an author, but there’s not requirement that all writers are also authors in the sense as most understand the term “author”. When people hear “writer”, they think of novelists, which is fine, but writers can do all kinds of things. They can write:
The list goes on. Anyway, there’s always an awkward moment when I tell people I’m a writer but then they ask what I’ve written. I don’t have a litany of novels to describe, but I do have hundreds of content marketing, technical articles, and short stories to note. Most of my work is as a ghostwriter, so I can’t really show what I do. I am sure that most people thing I sit at home alone and pet cats all day.
How Does One Become a Writer?
If non-writers don’t think that you stay at home and stroke cats all day, then they at least think your life is cushy and your job is easy. I wish I had a hundred thousand dollars for every person who said that they, too, were writing a book. How nice for them. And how unrealistic. They might, between lattes, think about what they’d write if they wrote a book, but thinking and writing are two different things. Just as a doctor cannot think his way into a successful open-heart surgery, so too can a writer not think her way into a finished work.
I recall once that the pretty man on our HOA board who used to give me penetrating looks with his icy blue eyes (possible indication of the need for contacts) told me that he planned to write a book. That was several years ago. It hasn’t happened. I can only assume he’s turned his laser-like focus elsewhere.
Okay, So What Does It Take to Be a Writer?
After all, being a writer is hard. It takes work. It takes self-actualization. It takes pain and suffering and maybe even some internal bleeding (see a doctor if this happens).
If you are a “writer”, this means that on a daily basis you:
Contribute to an existing work
Produce something in writing
Are paid for the act of writing
Communicate with others about writing (and are compensated at some point for these efforts)
Are part of a writing society where you are an active participant and not the dead fish variety member
Write every day except for the days that you deem as your “off days”
You don’t have to fulfill all of these criteria, but you should fulfill at least one or two if not more. The last one in particular is important. I spend many days thinking about writing, and guess what happens when I potter about thinking about writing. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Eventually, my interest or enthusiasm, or both, in the idea wane, and I move on. That doesn’t make me a writer. That makes me a slacker. While I do have a busy life and schedule, there are never any excuses for not writing everyday.
Because I left off the most defining trait of a writer, which is that you can’t not write. No matter what it costs. No matter what you have to give up—dessert, television, observing football, painting, your evening glass of wine, trying to learn the guitar to the dismay of your family, etc., you choose writing. If you can do that, then shake my hand. You’re a writer.
In my next blog, I’ll cover what’s next for novelists. Being a novelist is about so much more than writing a book, there’s a reason the future is trending toward self-publishing. On that forefront, I’ll note that for many, it’s not a bad vehicle. We will get into that later, though, and I plan to be very detailed so that you authors who aren’t sure how to infiltrate this industry understand what’s going on, what your options are, and what your best bets are.
Until then, write away.
And once you’re done writing away, get an editor to look over what you’ve written regardless of whether or not you’re seeking an agent or are going indie. Not sure what to do or what your book needs? Send an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s talk. I’ll tell you what I know, and we’ll see how I can help you make your dreams of proving your in-laws wrong come true.