What Makes a Writer?

When I was a little girl and told my mother that I wanted to be a writer someday, she said, “you already are a writer Jessica, because you write“. I believed that for a very long time, and it has often been the fuel to keep me going in the face of all the inevitable rejection we face in this business. I know, too, that I am not the only writer who has held on to this simple mantra like a lifeline:

We are writers because we write.

Fast forward a few years. Now as a “responsible” adult I really focus on my writing as a career choice, not just a beloved hobby. I belong to SCBWI, frequent writers’ message boards, read up on the current publishing trends and markets, am attending graduate school as a literature and writing major, and have tons of writers (mostly poets, who are good people if a little depressed), as FaceBook and Twitter friends. Not a day goes by when I’m not in some way studying my passion of writing. And lately, I have begun to realize a disturbing trend within the literary community. At first, I didn’t find it disturbing. In fact, like most of my writing friends I agreed with it. But then it started to grate more and more on me, little by little, each day. Because no matter how much I thought I agreed with this trend, I didn’t follow it. In fact, I couldn’t follow it. The trend is this: our definition of “writer” has changed. Our mantra has been twisted. Now it reads:

Writers are writers because they write… all the time and about everything.

And apparently, if you don’t fit this new definition, you’re no longer a serious writer. Not even close.

Now, I don’t begrudge writers who can do that. I don’t. If you want to blog about whatever randomness pops into your head ten times a day while juggling five different short stories, a novel or two and a journal of poetry, more power to you. But see, I don’t work that way. In fact, I can’t work that way.

And dammit, right here and now I’m going to stop trying to work that way. Why? Simple. I’m too busy writing what I actually write.

Like many authors, I don’t write short stories. I don’t write poetry. I don’t write non-fiction… usually. I write novels. Series novels, to boot. My shortest series is four novels long. Fantasy, science fiction, thriller, steampunk… these genres take a lot of planning, strategy, notes, and work. I can’t write a blog every day because I don’t have the time. I’m too busy planning, researching, editing and building an entire world from scratch. Just because I’m not showing the world what I write every day doesn’t mean I’m not writing. And just because I don’t pound out a short story or a poem daily doesn’t mean I’m not dead serious about my work.

Sometimes I worry that we writers are becoming like so many others in this world: more interested in quantity than quality. I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but it is how I honestly feel. If your quantity is quality, then bravo for you. But for me, it takes time to lovingly craft a faerie tale by hand. And I refuse to feel guilty about that any longer.

Writers are writers because we write. That hasn’t changed. No matter what anyone says.

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4 Responses to “What Makes a Writer?”

  1. If you consider yourself a writer, you are a writer. I have a blog and I’ve done some creative writing in my lifetime, but I do not define myself as a writer.

    Personally, I would rather see more writers with the attitude that you have. Take you time, and write a quality story. Don’t just churn out words because you think you have to.

    I don’t know how much you value the opinion of a random person who stopped by your blog, but just from reading this post I think you have the attitude that will allow you to make a living as a writer. The genres that you write are my favorite genres to read, and I look forward to hearing about your published works in the future.

    Best of luck.

    • Thank-you Adam. It’s exactly random comments like yours that keep me going. After all, friends have an obligation to care and say nice things, but random people don’t have that stigma. I do have one book published, but I am updating the story so it would be best to wait about a month to get it. I’m working now on updating the free five chapters and will have them replaced within the week. 🙂

  2. I agree, personally I’m more likely to respect writers who create a series and whole world rather than those who produce short stories. There’s a lot more hard work and dedication that goes into it and to be a writer you have to be dedicated, you have to be prepared to spend quite a while in your head exploring the world that you’re created.

    • Thank you Summer. Many of my favorites — The Dark Tower, The Wheel of Time, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter– are series. I find my own worlds and story ideas are too complex to fit into one book as well. That said, I respect writers who can say a lot in a few words. I don’t possess that kind of talent. But still, we shouldn’t all judge each others’ writing merit on how much we put online a day.

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