The Difference Between Saying You're A Writer And Actually BEING A Writer
edited: Wednesday, December 06, 2006
By Laurel Dewey
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, November 16, 2006
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What does it take to be a real writer?
If I had a dollar for every person who told me that they always wanted to write a book, I'd have enough money to upgrade the writing software on my iMac every month.
"I got a book inside me." I hear that a lot. My response? "Well, good Lord, get it out! I wouldn't want a book stuck inside me!"
I've spoken at a few writers' conferences and it always amazes me how many people claim to be writers but admit to being "terrified" by the prospect and have a difficult time actually sitting down to WRITE.
Hey, I hear you. Writing is not for the lazy or the indifferent. Writing can be hard work. To create something out of nothing...to sculpt a main character who is so real you want to look them up in the phone book and talk to them...to produce a story that continually makes the reader want to turn the page...all of these things require a strong creative spirit and a disciplined mind.
And that's an odd combination when you think about it. Creative people are not necessarily disciplined in their behavior and disciplined people are not necessarily creative. It's the old "left brain/right brain" argument. But, trust me, to be a successful writer, you MUST be both creative and disciplined.
You can always find an excuse why you can't write on a particular day. "Too busy" is a good one. "Not enough time in the day" is another popular excuse. Well, here's the stone cold truth: Like anything that's important to you, you have to MAKE the time to write. Whether that means getting up an hour early and writing (I've done that more times than I can tell you) or sacrificing part of your social life in order to have a chunk of time available to you (I've done that for years.)
So, you get past all that and actually sit down to write your story. Good for you! But are you writing for the right reasons? If you write what you think is popular or what you think will make you money, you’re writing for the wrong reasons. You have to write from your heart. Truthfully, my debut novel, Protector was the first time I ever wrote from my heart and it made all the difference.
A literary professor in college told me that to be a good writer you had to “LOVE what you do. Engage in the process of creating great characters and stories. Believe in your protagonist as if they really existed. Feel their pain and have compassion for their weaknesses.” He was right. All of this takes tremendous energy and time but it’s what makes for a really good read.
You also have to risk being vulnerable. I say “risk” because for so many of us, being vulnerable is dangerous. It’s putting out this naked truth that anyone can shoot down or call “ordinary” or “boring.” You have to risk that reaction and still write if writing is your passion. Eventually, if you keep writing, your voice will find others of like minds.
And honestly, when all is said and done, you either are a writer or you’re not. Real writers have no choice—they write because if they don’t, they die inside. For real writers, writing is like breathing. When they don’t have the outlet for that expression, their life falls like lead around them. So, you either are a writer or you are not. I don’t believe you can teach someone to write and create great characters and stories. Sure, you can certainly teach someone how to conceptualize an idea and frame his or her story in a tighter outline, but you can’t teach talent. You can’t teach creativity. You either have it or you don’t. You can hone talent and encourage creativity, but you can’t take a workshop expecting to attain it.
And you can't build a fire of passion under someone. That flame has to come from their core.
So, are you still a writer?
If you answered, "Yes," get to work.