Monday, February 15, 2010

What makes a writer a writer?

If I had a nickel for every time someone who asked what I did for a living responded to my answer with "Oh, I'm writing a book, too!" I wouldn't have to work another day in my life. Actually, I would. Because I'm a writer, and that's what writers do. For me, even on those grueling, I'd-rather-have-a-root-canal-while-my-hair-is-on-fire days in front of the computer, I would still write.

Of course, whenever someone tells me they're writing a book, I have to ask the obvious questions: What's it about? What's the genre?...Are you finished?

Yeah, it's the last question that usually trips folks up. So many of the people who are writing a book have been working on the same book for years. So, are they really writers?

I asked myself, what makes a writer a writer? Here are just a few things I believe comprise the make-up of every writer.

Writers write. Novel concept, huh? (Yes, the pun was very much intended). If you're going to call yourself a writer, you actually have to write. I've discovered that there are people who shell out good money to belong to writer's organizations like RWA, yet haven't touched the one manuscript they've been working on for months. If that's you, you're a hobbyist, not a writer.

Writers sacrifice. We all have lives outside of our writing, and we all have the same 24-hours in a day in which to get things done. There are USA Today Bestsellers who hold down a full-time job and take care of a house and family. These writers sacrifice time for their craft. It's not easy, but if you're a writer, it's what you do to get the job done.

Writers are fearless. In my own very unscientific analysis of why so many writing acquaintances work on novels yet never finish them, I would put fear of rejection at the top of the list of reasons those books never reach "the end". Even if true writers don't realize it, they really are fearless. It takes guts to put yourself out there.

Writers don't quit. This piggybacks on the concept of fearlessness. An essential part of being a writer is not allowing yourself to quit when the going gets rough. And it can really get rough. I always say that hell starts at Chapter Five. If I'm lucky, it'll hold off until Chapter Seven, but at some point I will hit a concrete wall. If writing were not in my blood, I would stop right there. Seriously, who wants to hit their head up against a wall? The writer does. All the time.

Writers read. Yeah, I'll bet you weren't expecting this one, were you? The next time someone tells you they are writing a book, don't ask them about the book they're working on. Ask them about the last book they read. You would not believe how many people are trying to write a book when they don't even read them. Writers are incessant readers. It's how you learn what to do, and more importantly, what not to do.

I want to know your thoughts. What do you think makes a writer a writer?


Chicki said...

Excellent post, Farrah! I agree with you. Being a writer is so much more than just putting words on a page. It's a lifestyle that encompasses those qualities you listed.

I am always amazed by those who say they're writers but don't read anything, as if they couldn't possibly learn anything from the successfully published ...

Jewel Amethyst said...

Yes and writers learn to take rejection, criticism and bad reviews with a smile and continue writing anyway!!

Jewel Amethyst said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn Emery said...

I agree, especially with the fearless point. You're so right, it takes guts to write. But to send out your writing over and over means you're fearless.

Phyllis Bourne said...

Like Chicki, I'm always amazed at how many people talk to me about wanting to be writers yet they hate to read.

Shelia G said...

Good post. Writers write. Rejection becomes a second skin. Writers don't focus on the rejection; instead turn it around as fuel to make their current work in progress the best that it can be.

Shauna Roberts said...

You really hit the nail on the head with this post, Farrah. I have nothing to add other than I wish everyone I know who wants to be a writer could read it.

Christi Craig said...

I don't know that I can add anything to your list, but I love "Writers write." And, it just so happens I'm suffering through no. 4...How did you know I was on chapter five? Really...I'm avoiding that chapter as I type. Not quitting, but seriously avoiding :)