As I interact with others in the writing community, I keep seeing the sentiment that someone is “not a real writer if…” What follows that seems to be a never-ending list of criteria to being a “real writer.” As if the act of actually writing itself is not adequate enough to be a writer. Here is a small sample of some of the things I’ve seen people claim you must be or do in order to be a “real writer.”
- Doubt yourself and/or your work, sometimes to the level of complete loathing.
- Develop detailed outlines or plans before you ever begin to write.
- Only use a pen and paper (or typewriter) instead of these newfangled gadgets.
- Have conversations with the characters you create.
- Never edit your own work, instead spend thousands to hire a professional editor.
- Never, ever like anything you’ve ever written.
I could go on, but I think you see my point. The writing community at large seems to have a lot of opinions on writing, as well they should. Perhaps some of what I listed here is what is needed in order to be a good writer. However, not doing any of these things doesn’t make anyone a fake writer either.
When did we decide that if people don’t follow certain, often arbitrary, criteria, that they aren’t “real.” I’ve seen this with other professions as well. “You’re not a real…” web designer, artist, engineer, actor, etc., if you don’t meet some of these criteria. It seems to go back to the concept of having a “real job.” My cousin in Germany has been a successful drummer in a variety of rock bands in Germany for over twenty years now, and his father is still asking him “when are you going to get a real job?” Isn’t earning an income, supporting himself, and having a successful musical career not real enough?
The same goes for being a writer. Isn’t writing something not real enough? If you write, even if you never publish a single word, I still consider you a writer. Technically, you’re not a professional writer if you don’t get paid to write, nor are you a professional author if you don’t publish your work and make some sales. However, you don’t have to be a paid professional to be a writer.
If you ever feel discouraged from writing simply because someone told you that you aren’t a “real writer,” don’t listen to them. If writing is your passion, then write. Write for yourself and don’t worry about others. If and when you want to publish or share your work, remember that even if your work is initially rejected, that isn’t necessarily an indication that your writing isn’t good. Stephen King and J. K. Rowling both had many rejections before their first novels were published as well.
We all have different reasons why we write, and different ways we write. I don’t feel there is any one right or wrong way to do it. As long as you enjoy writing, then keep on writing!