I confess I hold a very negative stereotype in my mind about the artist as a kind of froufrou nutball in a beret who does ‘art for art’s sake,’ but can’t particularly be bothered about real life, other people, or existence outside of the art. It’s part of why it’s taken me a long time to finally accept that I am an artist, both with my writing and other art projects that I create. A silly stereotype held me back and sometimes made me doubt my art because I didn’t want to be “like that.”
But stereotypes – even if we don’t consciously consider them – can likewise creep into what we believe a writer is, and therefore what we think we need to become or be. What do you think a writer is? Who is he or she? What kind of life do they lead? How will you need to adjust who you are to become that writer person? Will you?
William Faulkner said: “Don’t be a writer. Be writing.”
It could lead to questions about what or who he thought the writer was. Or maybe he was just getting at the fact that to write, we don’t need to fit some bizarre or caricature we’ve created. The actual writing is what’s important, nothing else.
I think we can also invest too much time and effort into becoming an idea of something because that’s also how we think we can gain success. Have you met your favorite author? Have you heard someone talk about the “writer’s identity” or “writer suit” you have to create? “Author branding” perhaps?
Even as I think that I just focus on the writing, I know that isn’t always true, and I doubt it is for a lot of other writers too. Consciously or unconsciously I think we in some ways emulate those we admire or what we want to become, hoping to likewise emulate their success and other attributes we admire. As we study marketing and the ideas of author branding, we know we need to consider our attire when in public like at conferences, our website, presentation of everything that goes out about us so make a good impression, to sell ourselves as a successful “writer” image.
The part that sometimes seems to go the wayside is the writing part. No matter how slick the outside package, what difference does it make if the writing just isn’t there? If you don’t write, can you still be a writer? Writing is an act of doing and being: you need both, don’t you? Why is it that you write anyway?
Are you a writer? Who is that? I think whoever you think it is will become and be who you will be as a writer, who you are as a writer. But I think we also need to be cautious of forming a very concrete, definite idea of who or what a writer is. Mostly, we probably can’t worry about it too much – especially if that distracts us from our writing. Because the thing is, if you and I are both writers, it doesn’t mean we’re the same. Perhaps we write different genres, have different publication routes or plans, different regimens, all sorts of differences that are cemented in who we are as people, not just writers, if we can even separate the two. What has to stay foremost is the writing, however we do it, whenever we do it, we just need to keep doing it, we just have to keep writing, come lousy first drafts, oodles of revisions, early success or late.
So, put on your beret if that’s who you are as a writer, or maybe you prefer a clown’s wig, or maybe comfy pajamas. But whatever the case, just get to writing too, hmm?
Who do you think a writer is? Who are you as a writer? Thanks for reading, and have a great week.