What is a Real Writer?

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What is a “real writer”?
Am I one of those who could be called a “real writer”?
I still labor under the burden that real writers are published and published well. And that slippery term, “published well” constantly moves away from me, a goal that is ephemeral, a tiny wisp of a cloud. I never feel like a real writer.

Why is that? I have ten books out, I’ve written over 1000 blog posts for Fiction Notes, have drafts of many novels and picture books that will probably never see the light of day. And yet. . .

Who is the real writer in the house?

I think it’s the rejection, the constant “this doesn’t meet our current needs” comments. And I get it: this really didn’t meet their needs at the moment, or they weren’t passionate enough to champion it. I understand. When you write on spec–as most fiction writers do–you have to hit a sweet spot FOR THAT EDITOR. And why should you be able to do that? You probably don’t know that editor, you’re just “writing for yourself.” Why should you-as-an-audience be the same as the editor-as-an-audience?

I have quirks, things I like to write about, ways I like to write. I just want to meet the editor who has the same quirks as myself. Where are you, Editor-Who-Thinks-Like-Me? Please introduce yourself.

It is this constant second-guessing of my own aesthetics, my ideas about what makes a great story, that is so discouraging.

I often say, “This is a deadly business.” Deadly to our egos, deadly to our hopes.
When I am rejected, it is like someone says to me, “Your writing just doesn’t have enough heart.”

OR, worse, “YOU don’t have a big enough heart, Miss Grinch. Grow that heart and your story will grow enough heart and then I will publish it.”

And if there’s something wrong with my heart, it is hopeless. We don’t know how Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day, there’s no scientific explanation. No cure. No fix.

And I wind up feeling like I am not a “real writer.”

We battle feelings like this daily, don’t we?
On saner days, I know I am a person who puts words on paper/screen daily: for the last 46 days, I’ve written at least 750 words daily. I am a writer. A real writer. By definition–a writer is a person who writes–I am a writer.

Today, I can fight this particular demon and roar to the world, “I am a writer!”
Today, rejoice with me.
And tomorrow, when my heart shrinks back to its three sizes too small–please read my humble posts and give me a kind word. Because this is a hard business and we all need encouragement.

YOU are a real writer. Congratulations!
Go. Encourage another real writer today.

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5 Comments
  • Beth Stilborn
    February 21, 2012

    It is good to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this on occasion. I think it’s especially on the days when we doubt ourselves that we need to stand up, stand together, and shout to the universe , “I *AM* a real writer!”

  • Deb Lund
    February 21, 2012

    Yes, it’s true! Writers are people who write. This past month I figured out I had been beating myself up. Things have crawled at a slower and slower pace these past years, and I had somehow blamed myself. Then I figured out (like you) that I had indeed been doing my part. I’ve been showing up for work, just not getting the paycheck I used to get! And still, it’s those of us who keep going, who recognize the voices in our heads for what they are, who will prevail. Congratulations on your dedication and for meeting your 750 daily word goal. Impressive. What a writer!

  • Darcy Pattison
    February 21, 2012

    Deb:
    Rejection is hard, isn’t it?
    But we are BOTH writers!
    Darcy

  • Karen
    February 29, 2012

    Oh, I can so relate – but you are truly a writer! Thanks for all you share.

  • Rosa
    April 23, 2012

    Thank you for this. I am just starting out as a “writer”. I am not sure I can do this, but I am trying a little bit everyday. It seems a bit scattered, but the notes and dialogue that I type out make me comfortable that I am doing something. While I don’t expect any success, it is becoming a passion to just get the words down. I am really appreciating your blog. While I don’t always comment on all the postings I’ve read in the last 2 weeks of being a writer, I am deeply appreciative of all your efforts on this blog. I hope that I can go to one of your retreats in the future.