Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Writer is...

…someone who writes.

That was a tagline of a writing workshop brochure I saw once. I even cut out the slogan and pasted it onto an Artist Trading Card.

My mother joked about it—it seemed so obvious to her. But she doesn’t have to deal with the question of whether she’s a “real” writer.

It took me a long time before I felt comfortable calling myself a writer. I remember how happy I was when my friend Annette said she always described me as a writer regardless of what kind of job I held or how I made my money.

Then there’s the question of whether you are a real writer.

Can you be a real writer if you just scribble in a notebook?  

Can you be a real writer if you’ve never published?

Can you be a real writer if you haven’t been paid for your writing?

Can you be a real writer if you don’t write every day?

 Are real writers some kind of special breed in some unique habitat?

This reminds me of Julia Cameron’s exercise from The Artist Way: fill in the blank:

1.    Artists are_____________________________.

2.    Artists are _____________________________.

3.    Artists are _____________________________.

4.    Artists are _____________________________.

5.    Artists are _____________________________.

6.    Artists are ______________________________.

7.    Artists are ______________________________.

8.    Artists are ______________________________.

9.    Artists are ______________________________.

10.  Artists are ______________________________.

A variation is to repeat the exercise with ten prompts:

Real artists are ______________________________
Her point is that we create a mystique around artists and writers. Either we set them up as antisocial failures: the starving artists, clad in all black living in cold attic garrets in Paris. Alternatively, we imagine people whose ideas emerge fully formed; geniuses who effortlessly create works of great beauty.

Ultimately I am a writer because I feel like a writer. It’s something I both love and hate to do. I may lag; I may get confused; I may falter. But I will always return. I will write.  

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