There’s an idea rattling around in that brain of yours. You have a laptop. You have an urge to write the next best novel. You, are a writer. Right?
All of these things are things writers should have, important and definitely big factors of what one needs to write, but they aren’t what a person needs to be a writer.
At eight, I handed a thirty-page handwritten “novel” to my mother and declared my intent to be a writer. My mother, always very direct and honest, even with budding youth, smiled and looked over the scrawled pages. Then, clearly, she said, “I always wondered which one of my girls was a masochist.”
Of course she had to explain what a masochist was since, at eight, my vocabulary was good but not that impressive. What my mother was trying to tell me was that, to be a writer, one needed a thick hide, a stubborn head, and desire to plod on despite critics and naysayers.
Face it. To be a writer, to really be a writer, one has to have an absolute obsession with putting words on paper. It has little to nothing to do with writing “the next American novel” or “getting rich and famous.”
Being good with words isn’t the same thing either. It’s easy enough to write a well constructed sentence, paragraph, or even book. It’s what comes after you string those words together that makes a person a writer.
Even the exceptional writer has detractors. At best, they write a 1 or 2 star review on Amazon or any number of book review sites about why they dislike a particular read. At worst, they rip to shreds the body of work you spent the last umpteenth months pouring your blood, sweat, and – oh, yes – tears into.
A writer has to have the pure, blinding, maddening obsession of putting words on paper to keep them going. They have to be able to take the abuse, the tear down, of people coming after a piece of their very soul.
At a recent writer’s conference I attended in Scottsdale, Ariz., compliments of Desert Rose RWA, I had the privilege of lunching with several well known authors and several aspiring writers. When one man mentioned how hard writing was for him, how it was a struggle to sit down and write, one of the author’s asked him why he continued. He said he had a book in him and wanted to write it.
“Give up now,” she said. “You’re not cut out to be a writer.”
Harsh? Maybe. True? Definitely. After speaking with this man at length, everyone at the table got to hear how much he dreaded sitting down to write, how he was just waiting until it was finished so he could “get to the published” part.
“Quit now,” she said. “If your obsession isn’t to sit down and write, if the writing is only getting done so you can ‘be published,’ then this isn’t for you.” She went on to say she didn’t want to dissuade anyone from being a writer, but she’d been at this game long enough to not sugar coat what she saw – he just wasn’t meant to be a writer.
I didn’t disagree with her. Writing, needing to put words on page, to tell a story, has to be the end all, be all for going through the daily torture of being a writer. Because that is what it is – torture. Few other professions, or passions, require a person to inflict as much daily torture on themselves as being a writer.
Once you’d struggled through the self doubt, the elation, the exhausting torment of waking frantically out of sound sleep, pouring words onto paper, only to stumble back to bad for an hour of sleep before going to your day job, plodding through the rigmarole of daily work so you can get back to your real love, there’s the editing. An editor ripping apart everything you’d just poured your heart into for months, or even years, building, bleeding, is excruciating. Then it’s on to beta readers who do the same – love, hate, indifferent (and the later can be just as bad as someone hating the story, trust me). Finally it’s off to the public, who have the opportunity to hate, love, or not care – only they get to do it on a very public, and very heartbreaking scale.
No, writers don’t just write. They write because, despite the pain and hardship and difficulty of doing do, they simply must write. Because, despite the torture, they love every minute of it.
So… you think you can writer?
the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate other writers through humor and simple instruction.