You Might Not Be A Writer (And That’s Okay)
I’ve heard a sentiment over the last few years that goes something like this: “Everyone’s a writer. We all just need to tap into our ‘inner writer’ to become one.”
That’s probably a simplistic representation, but the sentiment is along those lines.
It sounds nice. It might make you feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.
But it’s not true.
Now, does almost everyone write? In this modern world, sure, we all write, whether it’s a book, an article, an email, or an emoji-filled Facebook post. Hopefully, we write with the intent to at least do a decent job of communicating.
But that doesn’t make me or you a writer anymore than doing my own taxes makes me an accountant or pulling a few weeds in my flowerbed makes me a landscaper.
Does everyone have the potential to be a writer? Absolutely. We’re all capable of being a “writer.” But simply having the ability to put words and letters together doesn’t make one a writer.
Yes, I write for a living, and some of you might think I’m playing the snob card here. But all I’m really trying to say is that writing is like anything else. It takes time and work and doesn’t just happen by throwing a label on yourself.
I’m not even saying being a published professional is the only way to be a writer. I think if you’re serious about the craft over a long period of a time, if you somehow keep getting drawn back to the blank pages of Microsoft Word, then you’re probably a writer. Go write!
But let’s not just say everyone’s a writer. That sounds encouraging, but it’s misguided at best and disingenious at worst.
Being a writer takes time, discipline, and a lot of work. Saying “everyone is a writer” does a disservice to the people who spend the time and do the work. It also waters down the “playing field” and sets unrealistic expectations. If everyone’s a writer, then I’ll just go write a novel on my first go and expect it to get published, right? That’s what real writers do, right?
Along those lines, I love what the Frank Bascombe character out of The Sportswriter has to say about writers who come and go out of the profession.
“I had written all I was going to write, if the truth had been known, and there is nothing wrong with that. If more writers knew that, the world would be saved a lot of bad books, and more people–men and women alike–could go on to happier, more productive lives.”
You’re no more born into being a writer than you are forced to be a writer your entire life. You might go through a season of writing, publish a few articles or a book (think Harper Lee), and move on to other pursuits.
And that’s fine. Go do that.
But let’s be honest about what it takes to be a writer—and it takes more than just calling yourself one.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)