Are you a writer? Are you sure? How do you know?
Just because you write, does that make you a writer?
I don’t know either. Maybe we can help each other out here.
Don’t get me wrong; I love to write. I write every day.
Does that make me a writer?
I play the guitar every day, but I’m pretty sure no one would call me a guitarist.
I drive every day, but I’m certainly not a driver.
When does doing something a lot make you that thing?
It seems to vary with the activity. If you run, you’re a runner. But if you play baseball, you don’t get to call yourself a baseball player.
I read. A lot. And for the most part, I try to read writers. You know them when you see them. You also know the other guys. You start to read an article and get that puzzled look on your face. What is this? That guy’s no writer. So, you close that window and move on. I know a few people read almost everything I write. But I’m sure many more began one of my articles and got that puzzled look. That WTF expression.
I’ve been writing for fifteen years. Actually, I’ve been writing since first grade, but you know what I mean. I’ve been writing writing for fifteen years. Writing, you know, stuff. Now, there’s a pithy, declarative construction. And in those fifteen years, I have written literally hundreds of articles, possibly thousands. I can see Grammarly striking through literally, but I’m a writer, dammit, I get to sprinkle extraneous adverbs about willy-nilly. Or is that higgledy-piggledy? I always get those two confused.
But I digress.
When people ask me what I do, I usually say I’m a photographer. It’s easy and doesn’t usually require any additional explanation. Sometimes, they will ask me what I photograph, at which point, I typically pull out that, you know, stuff, line. That almost always shuts them up.
But in terms of time spent doing it, I probably spend more time writing than I do in photography. Especially in the last six months. So, why don’t I say, I’m a writer?
Because after hundreds of thousands of words, many of which were commercially viable, I’m not entirely certain that I qualify to be a writer. Is there a test I can take? Can I join a club and learn the secret handshake?
As I said earlier, I read a lot. And just by the nature of the, I’m reading it, so someone wrote it, so they must be a writer mentality, I always read writers. I also know they are writers because they will gladly and readily tell you they are. In tedious detail. They like to extemporize (wonder if that one will get past Grammarly?) on their hardships and honing the craft. They write about how to write and what to write and no, you can’t write that. Some will tell you how to make a zillion dollars writing in your spare time. But mostly they talk about writing and proofreading and re-writing and pitching and cold calling and building websites and portfolios and manuscripts and editing and killing your babies and removing redundant and repetitious words and what words you can and cannot end sentences with.
But I don’t do that. I don’t do any of that. Well, for the most part. I try to edit judiciously without removing the spirit of the article, my voice. I wouldn’t want to do that (insert sarcasm emoji here).
I just write. I hope you read it, but it’s okay if you don’t. By the nature of the universe, I know that you are reading this one right now, and I appreciate it. I would have probably given up on the second paragraph, but I admire your persistence.
Or maybe, you’re just patiently waiting for me to get to the point.
Well, here it is at long last. Sort of.
I may not qualify to be a writer, but I am a writer. If I think, therefore, I am, then I write; therefore, I am a writer. How’s that for unassailable logic?
But is just writing enough to qualify? Do you also need readers? I know I have at least one. (That’s you, skippy). But if I write something in the forest and nobody reads it, was it ever written?
I don’t know the answers to any of this; I was hoping my readers would help me out. I want to be a writer. I’d like it if, when people said, what do you do, I could hold my head up and puff out my chest and declare, I am a writer. And when they asked me what I write, I could say, you know, stuff. And they would nod knowingly and walk away.
If it works out, maybe someday, I will bind my best articles together into a best-selling book, “Alpaca Farming in the Twenty-First Century.” Except, you know, books. Nobody buys them anymore. You have to give them away as an Amazon ebook. I guess if it doesn’t work out, I can find something else to do. Maybe become a meteorologist. But only on the radio. I can get up early every morning, tell everyone that today, it might rain, and it might not, and go back to bed. I wouldn’t want to be one of those TV guys. They have to stand outside in the rain to actually show people it’s raining.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing, and I truly hope you keep reading.
I’ll keep playing the guitar until I become a guitar player. I’ll keep writing until I become a writer. Until these old, arthritic fingers stop allowing me to do either. But I can still write. By that time, those voice to text gizmos will develop to the point that it doesn’t misunderstand every word from my querulous voice. (Man, I’m having a ball with those adjectives, huh?)
Of course, some will argue that makes me a speaker, not a writer. But that ilk is still lamenting the passing of the quill pen and inkwell. Those modern people with their type-writers are no better than children banging on toys.
A real writer uses quill and ink!
Hold my beer, says the guy in the cave mashing berries.
I am genuinely grateful that you have followed me through this entire rant. I was feeling a bit self-conscious about referring to myself as a writer. But if I can string together all these words in a semi-cohesive narrative and you read the whole damn thing, doesn’t that make me a writer?
I guess that’s for you to decide.