Friday, July 18, 2008

What is a Writer?

What, exactly, is a writer? I think a writer is someone who writes. And I think a real writer isn't necessarily someone who has been published (as some of those who have will tell you--like it's some sort of exclusive club or something), but I think a real writer is someone who can't not write.

It's a mind-set rather than a list of accomplishments. Because when it comes down to it, published or not, we're all doing the same thing. We're all writing. Sometimes it sings, sometimes you cry. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes you sweat blood. Even the professionals--those who've "made it", those who've published a dozen books or more--admit to fear of the blank page.

For me, like anyone who I consider a real writer, writing is an integral part of life. If I'm not-writing, there's a problem. Every big not-writing period in my life has corresponded to a time when I didn't want to face the truth the writing would make me face head on. Writing cuts through the shit. Writing reaches the essential core of my being, brings forth the dreams, the truths, and the mortal dreads.

A writer writes.

Writing Prompt: What is your definition of a "real" writer? Do you consider yourself to be one? Why or why not?


Gianna said...

I just say I write when people ask me what I do.

I don't say I'm a writer though.

It is my main occupation right now...

But somehow I'm not comfortable calling myself a writer...

Probably because of the people you talk about who think you have to be published.

I'm just someone who writes.

Jazz said...

That works, too!
I haven't published much...just a couple of poems...but I still call myself a writer...cuz that's what I do. I'm always reminded of this snotty girl who was in one of the fiction writing classes I took in college. She'd had a short story or an article or something published in a magazine, and she thought she was such hot sh*t. She went around with her nose in the air letting everyone know she was a real writer and that the rest of us weren't worth anything.

Anonymous said...

I really needed to read this today. I just got another rejection. Why with all my issues would I try to sell a story? Why face rejection? I think it is because if I sold something then I could classify myself as a writer. I keep going back to my blog and my journals everytime I am rejected. My words may just be for me and that is okay. Yes, I have not sold a story but I am a writer. Thanks for this I needed it!

Jazz said...


I sympathize with you about the rejection. Just remember that publishing is purely market-driven, and that it isn't necessarily a reflection of your skills, but rather a reflection of what they think they can sell to make money. (Money is always the bottom line...anyone who tells you different is selling something!)

I like to think of it this way--regardless of who reads it in the end--you, or lots of people--if the satisfaction for you is in the writing rather than the reaching of an audience, then that is what's important. And you are a writer because you write--not because you have managed to successfully market yourself.

Peace to you,

Annie said...

Jazz, I enjoyed this post and found it thought provoking. I enjoy writing and much of the time it flows. Some of the time it doesn't but because I do not consider myself a "writer" I don't worry. I am like gianna I would have to say I just write. Annie

Gianna said...

Hey Jazz,
I forgot..I'm about to be published. An article on withdrawal and acceptance in the ICSPP journal...

It will be out in August I believe...

You'd think I'd be shouting from the rooftops!

I'm a space cadet.

Jazz said...

I think that's the best attitude to have...I think that the labels we give ourselves and the expectations we put on ourselves (and take on from others) because of those labels are often not helpful.

Jazz said...

Hey, Gianna, that's awesome! Good for you!

And as for being a space cadet, I think I've got the market cornered on that one. They used to call me Space Captain in high school, you know!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
I didn't consider myself a "writer" until I had my third book published. Why? I have no idea. At the time, I'd made my living writing for more than 15 years. But when people asked what I did, I said,

"I'm a grant writer and I've had two books published." Or "I write."

Then suddenly one morning, I awakened and thought, "I'm a writer!" I felt so extraordinarily proud, and I've considered myself a writer from that day on!



Marissa Miller said...

Writing Prompt: What is your definition of a "real" writer? Do you consider yourself to be one? Why or why not?

I always thought of a writer as someone who makes a living (as in $$$) off of his or her craft. JK Rowling... Nicholas Kristof... Emily Dickinson... Those are the real writers that I think of. But your post challenges my assumptions of who I see as a writer. Am I writer because I maintain a blog even though my "official" occupation is freelance proofreader? I don't know. I've always made a distinction between a novelist, a reporter, and a blogger.

Jazz said...


Yes, but that distinction you are drawing is all in the label. Down at the heart of it all, we're all doing the same thing--putting words on paper to create a picture in someone else's mind. The label might describe the words or the images more accurately than just saying "writer"...but it's all the same thing, really.

Publication is equivalent to "social approval" of what you write. It does not validate what you are doing. It only proves that you were able to write something that someone thinks will make enough money to be worth their while trying to sell. I'm not so sure that appealing the the masses is necessarily a hallmark of good fiction. It might be a hallmark of popular fiction...but there is a definite difference between fiction that is good and fiction that is popular. Sometimes they are the same thing. Most of the time they are not.

Marissa Miller said...

Hmm. Good point. Thanks.