So here’s a bit of news: Despite various opinions to the contrary, I’m a writer.
I even get the occasional validation from sympathetic parties to remind me of this factoid. For example, those of you who have an account with the LinkedIn service likely have been exposed to one of their newer features, “endorsements.” People with whom you’re linked now can endorse you as being qualified in all manner of topics. For us writerly folk, the categories seem to run the gamut. Case in point: yesterday, I received endorsements from two of my contacts who listed me as having at least some proficiency in the areas of writing, fiction, novels, short stories, non-fiction, and blogging. I’ve been picking up similar endorsements from other friends and colleagues for the past couple of months.
Hey, I guess I get around, here and there.
After I finished reading these latest notifications, my brain—as it is wont to now and then—started hopsotching across several thoughts and other bits of half-remembered infonuggets. I began recalling conversations I’ve had with colleagues and how we identify ourselves as writers. When asked, I tend to just say “I’m a writer,” and allow follow-up queries to foster discussion as to what exactly it is that I write.
Some of my friends, however, are more specific about describing what they do: “I’m a novelist,” or a “web content writer.” I’ve known a few people who even go so far as to say something like “I only write novels, because I can’t condense my ideas and stories into something shorter.” Others prefer the short story format: “I like to get in, tell my story, and get out, then go do it all over again.” Still others have a proficiency in magazine or other non-fiction writing, and prefer that realm.
Then there are the poets, sitting over there and laughing at the rest of us.
I certainly don’t think this is the sort of question with any kind of “wrong” answer, and there are situations where it’s advantageous to communicate that you are proficient in a particular type of writing. Generally speaking, though, I’ve never really felt the need to compartmentalize or categorize myself so far as what I do. I don’t consider myself a novelist, or short story or magazine writer, or a blogger. I’ve done all those things, of course, along with several other odd gigs over the years. Flash fiction stories? Check. Cover copy for book jackets? Ditto. Comic strips, or scripts for audio drama? A bit. Dirty limericks on the walls of truck stop restrooms? Um...that was my evil twin from the alternate universe.
I write whatever desire, fate, circumstances, opportunities and contracts bring my way, and I adapt as necessary and appropriate to the demands of a given project, format, and medium. It keeps things from getting boring, for one thing, and every new, different thing is an opportunity to learn.
Sure, the bulk of my fiction writing ends up in novels, but an idea sometimes comes along and I know it will just snap and pop as a short story, so that’s the way I go. Then there are the occasions where I realize that earlier gut feeling was wrong, and I take things back a few steps and rework it for a novel. Then there’s the nightmare scenario, when I start with what I’m hoping will be a novel idea, but realize at some critical point that there’s just not enough meat to it, so it goes back in the queue for reworking as a short story.
Meanwhile, the poets are going, “See? And I just add another stanza! Ha HAH!”
How about you? Do you identify yourself as any one “type” of writer, or do you just sling words whenever, wherever and however they need slinging?