The Journey to Publication, Writing

Are You a Writer? Who is that?

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.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Getting Off the Writers’ Emotional Rollercoaster

Have you bought a lottery ticket lately?

As I mentioned before, I wanted to do a series of blogs related to Laraine Herring’s wonderful The Writing Warrior. Today, I want to think about the following quote:

“If you understand that suffering arises when we want our current experience to be something other than what it is, you’ll see how much we, and not events, bring about our suffering.”

(from: L. Herring, The Writing Warrior, p60)

Let’s go back to my first question: have you bought a lottery ticket lately? Why? What do you think it will bring you? How will it change your life? Will you finally be able to pay off those bills, you won’t have to scrimp and save so much, money won’t be a worry anymore, you’ll be able to buy some of the things you could only dream about before, you’ll help others, you’ll … And on it goes.

The problem is, even if you win, your life will not be perfect. Oh, I’m not saying winning would be terrible (there are others who may suggest that), but what I am saying is that some problems may disappear, but others will replace them, because what we worry about, the problems in our lives and how we suffer are rarely directly caused by exterior causes. Our experience of our lives is what we make it.

The same is true in our writing. While so many of us dream about “The Call,” and how suddenly our lives will be wonderful – even if we accept that there will still be rejection, that one great deal doesn’t make a career, that sometimes things fall off track. We all, myself included, still think that it will at least be better than where we are now. But, like that winning lottery ticket, some problems may be solved, but other new ones will appear, many of which will be of our own making.

By the same token, if our satisfaction and experience is largely internal, we can make our lives better all by ourselves. For writing, we can know that we are learning, writing, and becoming the best writers we can be. We are moving towards goals of things like publication, but they aren’t the be-all, end-all of our existence: the writing matters, not just the publication. Judging our progress in the path our writing careers take is less about comparing ourselves to other writers or outward markers like securing an agent, gaining a publishing contract, making a million dollars, etc, and more about becoming better at what we do all the time, and loving what we do.

Again, like the lottery ticket, I’m not suggesting you don’t buy one. By all means, you should be getting out there and submitting, querying, working towards goals of publication if that’s what you want: it’s what I’m doing. I likewise don’t think your dreams and goals are likely to materialize into reality without hard work. But in the meantime, in the hard times when you’ve received rejection after rejection, when it seems like no one likes your writing, when you wonder if you’re just pretending to be a writer, when you’re thinking of giving it all up and all of the other negative internal conversations we have with ourselves, you can know none of it is necessary. You can be satisfied with writing for writing’s sake. You can be happy that you’re doing the best you can, and striving to do better. And while you still want to go further, it will happen, it will come someday, but when or how is less relevant that controlling what you can, like the consistency and quality of your writing.

So, have you bought a lottery ticket lately? Entered a major writing contest? Great. I wish you all the luck, and hope it turns out how you want. But even if it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world, and you ca still be satisfied and happy with your life and your writing.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.