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What Makes a Writer?

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.

11 thoughts on “What Makes a Writer?

  1. --Deb

    Certainly some are better than others! My only real complaint about a lot of romance novels is that they’re so badly WRITTEN. I’ve read YA books that were miles better than some of them–but the ones that are truly good? Well, that’s all that matters! And, honestly, just about every novel is better off for at least something like a love story (grin).

    –Deb’s last blog post..What Makes a Writer?

  2. Nathan Egelhof

    You will certainly win the heart of every writer with this piece, from essayist to diarist! It is, to confess, one of the most debated topics in the writing profession. I’ve seen many theses, many approaches to this topic, and rarely any have I truly liked. Although some may criticize your Universalistic view on it, I have to say that I appreciate your take on what constitutes a writer. Thanks from the underdog :)

    Nathan Egelhof’s last blog post..An Unexpected Source of Love

  3. --Deb Post author

    Technically, I’m one of the underdog’s too. I have an unpublished novel, and most of my writing is done for my own blog. I still have a hard time saying, “I’m a writer,” because there’s a part of me that doesn’t entirely believe it. I know that I WRITE, but that’s what I do (my self-doubting part whispers)–but writers ARE.

    Or, something like that. An amateur carpenter is still a carpenter.

  4. Writer Dad

    My wife and I were just discussing this yesterday. I’ve only been writing for a year (though she’s been trying to get me to start for ten). I’m finally comfortable calling myself a writer. I even bubbled it in under occupation for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Last night, I said, “Okay, I’m a writer, but until I see at least one red cent, I’m not an author.”

  5. --Deb

    That’s the tricky part–you can spend hours every day doing nothing but writing, but until you’re being paid for it, “outsiders” are never going to consider you a writer. If you say, “I’m a writer,” at your high school reunion, the first question is going to be, “What do you write?” If you want to sound convincing, you need a better answer than, “Well, I have a blog.” That’s why we writers have to stick together–whether we’re paid authors yet, or not!

    –Deb’s last blog post..What Makes a Writer?

  6. Friar

    If you’re a doctor, engineer, or chemist, it’s easy to define your profession. It implies that you’ve obtained a minimum certification, from an acredited university or college.

    Whereas with the arts, it’s a more grey definition.

    Writer. It can mean you’re a world-renowned Nobel Prize winning author. Or maybe you’re someone who just likes to jot things down in their diary.

    Same thing applies to artist, painter, photographer, sculptor, woodworker, etc.

    Hey, I have a garden. I’m a horticulturist and landscape architect.

    Hey, I ran a 10 km race. So I’m an athlete.

    You can pretty much be anything you want, nowadays.

    I had a friend who considered themself a “Professional” photographer, because they took hundreds of photos each vacation (after which the photos sat in a box for years).

    Suuuure….of COURSE you are! :-)

    When they say this, I try not to roll my eyes and I compliment them. If it makes them feel happy..whatever…

    Friar’s last blog post..My Favorite Touron (*) Moments

  7. --Deb

    Of course, this is just the flip side of “You can be anything you want to be.” I’m willing to acknowledge a difference between professional and amateur standing. Until you’re earning your living (or at least making “decent” money, even if not a living wage), you’re an amateur–whether it’s writer, photographer, whatever. But that doesn’t take away the fact that you write, photograph, run, design, bake, knit, sew….

    –Deb’s last blog post..What Makes a Writer?

  8. Melissa Donovan

    I think there’s a subset of people in every profession (or hobby, for that matter) who look down on others who don’t have the same practices or standards. They’re just snobs. I know their attitude bothers a lot of people and I’ve even heard writers complaining about them or letting them hinder progression toward some goal. Me? I just ignore them ;)

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..A Story for a Song