Archive: August 6th, 2008

What Makes a Writer?

Okay, so when you try to identify a “writer,” the first problem is the definition.

j0262322.jpgWhat is a writer?

Someone who makes their living by writing? A novelist? Newspaper journalist? Poet? Advertising Copywriter? Resume-writer?

Or someone who writes because they love it, regardless of whether they get paid for it?

Because, ultimately, there’s going to be confusion between the, shall we say, variety of different writers. Does a novelist consider a journalist to be a “real” writer? Do Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists sneer at the people writing poetry? Does the mythical idealist struggling in a garret sneer at anyone who compromises their artistic vision by accepting tacky money for putting words on a page when real writing is ART?

It’s really quite a dilemma. And considering we’re talking about people whose professional skills are honed to putting words in a row, it’s an intriguing one.

The truth is that there are many different kinds of writers.

No one methodology or genre is inherently better than any other. A person who plugs away for 10 hours a day writing articles for a webpage is working just as hard as the mystery writer piecing together a murder. Some things are better written than others, but they’re not inherently good or bad. Cheesy romance novels are no lower on the value scale than high-pressure sales pitches. Their writers work just as hard as the ones who are winning Nobels, just for less glory.

Sure, the quality of the writing may vary–Danielle Steele, John Grisham, Stephen King, Charles Dickens, Robertson Davies … some are better writers than others, but you know that ALL of them work hard at it. (Well, except Dickens and Davies, but they’ve been dead for a while, so they get a pass.)

It’s all a matter of perception. And here’s the other thing: Once you’ve opened up your definition of a “Writer,” you’ve opened yourself to all sorts of possibilities.

Free-lance writer. Novelist. Poet. Journalist. Copywriter. Essayist. Scriptwriter. Diarist. Letter-writer. Scribe. Calligrapher.

If you put words on paper–for whatever the cause, and for whatever renumeration–you are connected to every other writer. We’re all brothers and sisters beneath the skin.