Sunday, March 17, 2013

Have Words, Will Write

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?


Unknown said...

I don't know if I feel a need to find a writing box to crawl into for comfort's sake, but I know I like to write and read nonfiction. I tend to be better at it, and I enjoy writing essays, posts, articles. Is there a bit of fiction within me wanting to come out someday? Maybe.

I'm old enough to know life is a journey and full of surprises that can't be predicted and young enough to realize there's a lot of life ahead of me yet.

G. B. Miller said...

It took me a very long time to figure out what it was that I write and since I couldn't come up with a feasible explanation, I simply tell people that I write quirky fiction.

Makes them happy and makes me happy, and allows me the freedom to explore whatever direction my muse points me in.

Strangely enough, I don't read a lot of fiction for fun (just for reviews) but I do read a lot of non-fiction for fun.

Charles Gramlich said...

I never wanted to be tagged as one type of writer. I like the challenge of writing all kinds of things. I have done more SF/Fantasy/horror than most other things, but have tried to branch out in all kinds of ways. I love reading a little bit of everything so it's spilled over into my writing.

Dayton Ward said...

Sorry about the formatting issues, everyone. I wrote and "pre-loaded" this yesterday, as I knew I wouldn't be around early on Sunday morning. The preview all looked good before I hit the "publish" button, but then all my paragraph breaks disappeared.

So, my apologies for the "word soup" that greeted you this morning.

William Doonan said...

I call myself a writer. As to what I write, that would depend on the day. Hey, I don't make a living from this, so I can do what I want, right?

Jhohadli said...

I am a writer...took me long enough to claim it's how I prefer to be identified. I love writing fiction...but I also write quite a lot of poetry (though because I feel less confident in this genre don't really define myself as a poet)...I write all forms of non fiction for pay and not for pay as needs and moods allow...really I embrace all ways the term can be defined and look forward to the adventure of discovering what and how else I have it in me to write.