So a few days ago I read THIS blog post by writer and publisher Hayden Trenholm, which was a response to THIS article, which lists a bunch of behaviours that 'real writers' typically exhibit. Hayden's gripe with the article was that much of what it purported 'real writers' did or were like just didn't ring true for him... Thus he apparently isn't a 'real writer', despite actually having written and have had published a lot of stuff. He, of course, was being facetious. Of course he's a real writer.
He has a point, though. Too often I see articles explaining what 'real writers' do; how they think and act, and what, precisely, it is that makes them 'real writers'. Where does that leave people who don't behave that way?
What, dear readers, is a real writer?
Then read on.
1. One who writes.
Were you expecting something grand?
That, I think, is part of the problem. There is this bizarre mystique surrounding writing and writers, as if we were a special class of citizen, something human yet also transcendent of humanity. Does that sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? Yes? Good!
Writers, I'm not ashamed to say, are just ordinary folk. We're no different from plumbers or carpenters,
painters, builders, clerks or lawyers. We ply a trade, we have a craft. Our trade is entertainment, our imagination, our craft is writing. Just because our craft happens to be some sort of skill with words (most of the time... man there is some terrible dreck out there) doesn't make us some strange class of mystical being. They're just words. We're just people.
There are writers, I am sure, who have tried hard to cultivate their ivory towers; their petal-strew pedestals. Fuck those people. Writers are just people, with all the quirks, flaws and potential as any other person.
Some of us are horribly shy, or not just at all, just very introverted. Some of us are wild extroverts, and adore attention. They will happily perform a strange dance in a market square in order to sell their wares. Some of us are raging alcoholics. Some are utter teetotallers. Some of us find our inspiration in the works of others; be they screen plays, television shows, or other novels. Some of us find inspiration in the strangest places - a horse did something humorous, and suddenly there is a story. Some of us work really hard to figure out what to write about. Some of us don't really have a problem with getting the words out. Some of us really, really do. Most of the time, it's a odd combination of the two.
Do you see what I'm getting at? No list of attributes will never cover what a 'real writer' is or does. It simply cannot. Writers are a varied bunch because there is only one qualifier for being a real writer:
Now, please note that there is a vast different between being a real writer and being a good writer. They are not synonymous and, like any other trade or craft, there are those who do it far better than others. Yet even the terrible writers are still real writers. They're just terrible.
Putting ourselves up in some ivory tower, or on a pedestal, or otherwise separating us from the rest of the populace as something special might feel great for a bit, but I believe it is ultimately damaging. For starters, if people don't view us as any other craftsman; as the carpenters of words, the plumbers of stories, etc, then they may feel that we are less deserving of our pay. Being a writer is special and that should be payment enough!
*cough* Bullshit *cough*
It also leads, in my belief, to celebrity syndrome, when our personhood is directly compromised. We chose to be writers. We chose to put our work out there in public... And suddenly we find our right to privacy ignored, our personhood called into question. We're treated as commodities the way that celebrities are. Being a writer is so special, writers are no longer considered persons, with all the rights that accompany personhood.
Granted, that is just a major personal fear of mine - that my privacy would be denied to me if ever I succeed in a massive way. Still, I can see it happening more and more to writers, and it scares the crap out of me.
So, if ever you're reading a list of things writers do or are, and as a result you find yourself doubting your place as a writer, you need only remind yourself that you write. And that is enough.