Often when I meet new writers, they are quick to add, “but I don’t have anything published yet.” I was that way myself in the early days, shy to tell anyone that I was writing for fear they’d ask where they could find my published work.
I wonder: what does it mean to be a writer? Here’s how my beloved OED defines, “writer”:
occas., one who writes in a specified manner.”
I notice that this definition doesn’t include the element of having the writing published. And I love the phrase, “one who practises writing,” because that’s more at what I feel I do. It’s a practice, like yoga.
What other facets are there to writing? I think “real” writers rarely break their dates with the computer, or the page. They may not be at the keyboard every single day, but I’m willing to bet that not many hours go by when they’re not thinking about some story they’re working. Writers may spend 10 hours getting down 10 words or 10 pages and feel a sense of accomplishment with either result. Writers don’t ever say, “When I’m retired or when I have the perfect writing space or when the kids are grown, I’ll write that book I’ve been thinking about.” They string sentences together on the subway to work, they scribble away at one end of the kitchen table, and they park themselves in front of the computer while the kids are napping. Writers can’t walk past a single pink tennis shoe by the side of the road without imagining the child it belonged to and how it got there.
J.A. Jance told me once she has a message on her screen saver that says, “A writer is someone who has written today.” I think my all time favorite description of a writer came from my daughter, Quinn, when she was 5 years old: “My mind is all full of words, like stars in the sky, and I just mix them all up and make poems.”
Do you have a favorite definition/description of a writer? If so, please share!
I love your daughter’s quote….I think I am going to have to write that down somewhere!
Thanks for that post, Kirby:) I was so embarrassed at our most recent local conference when my nametag came with a “Published and Listed” ribbon because of a magazine article I’d had published in the past year. Here were authors who’d come out with multiple books asking about my work. But you know, everyone was supportive and congratulatory, and one author even stopped me from tearing the ribbon off the first day. And I wouldn’t ever tell another writer who is committed to their craft that they aren’t a writer if they haven’t had a book out, so I guess I need to suck it up and call myself a “writer”:)
My favorite writing quote, though, is a little snarky: “A writer is a person for whom writing is harder than it is for other people.” And how!