Last week I polled you about a writer’s most important needs. Several of you emailed me and asked a form of this question:
“How can I know if I’m a real writer?”
Out of the Mouths of Writers
Since I have seven bookcases of writing books and access to the Internet, it wasn’t hard to find opinions of published writers. Most of them gave lists of character qualities you needed to be named a “real writer.” Among the traits listed were…
- willingness to learn
A fifth trait was something I hadn’t thought of. But this one trait could be the deciding factor for you.
Inside a Real Writer
The fifth trait is called having a “long-term view.”
A writer with a short-term view might ask, “Do I have a book inside me?” A real writer, say many authors, ask this long-term question instead: “Do I have a writer inside me?”
How do you know? We certainly can’t rely on our feelings to tell us, since they fluctuate so much from day to day. One opinion is found in this quote by writer George Bernau:
“I decided that I would continue to write as long as I lived, even if I never sold one thing, because that was what I wanted out of my life.”
I can agree. Even if I never sold another thing, I believe I would continue to write in some form: newsletters, journals, articles, things for my family. I might not keep trying to write “for the markets,” but I don’t think I could stop writing in some form or another, even if I tried.
Others would agree with Harlan Ellison that the “long-term view” is more a mind-set, something you can choose. He said this after reading a book he didn’t like:
“If someone who writes that badly can become a writer, then even the dippiest of us can become a writer, baboons can become writers, sludge and amoeba can become writers. The trick is not in becoming a writer, it is in staying a writer. Day after week after month after year. Staying in there for the long haul.”
So the answer to the question of “Am I a REAL writer?” seems to be that you are–if you don’t quit. Or something in you won’t let you quit. You’re a REAL writer if you stay in the writing game for the long haul.
What a Real Writer Isn’t
When I was searching for the answer to that question, I looked in several books, on websites of current writers, and even the biographies of many famous Literary Ladies from the past.
None of the well known authors said:
- REAL writers sell books.
- REAL writers win awards.
- REAL writers make a lot of money.
- REAL writers have agents.
No. The consensus of opinion was this: Writers write–and keep on writing through thick and thin. You’ll know you’re a REAL writer if that’s what you do.
Let me ask you: when do you most feel like a “real writer”? Leave a comment and share!