Sometimes I think people don’t think before they speak. Okay. Strike that “sometimes.” People in general just speak what’s on their mind before considering it and deciding whether it’s a) logical or b) insulting/condescending.
I have found this to be especially true when it comes to the way people react when I talk about writing. Here’s how that conversation usually goes:
Them: So you like to write? What do you write?
Me: Well, I’ve completed two novels.
Them: Oh! Are they, like, published?
Them: *sympathetic nod* So, like, how long are they?
Me: Well, you know, novel-length. 300-350 pages
Them: *shocked face* Really? They’re like, real books?
Them: So what are they about?
Okay, we’ll get to the “what are they about” question later, but for now, let’s focus on the first part of the conversation. (Also, please don’t judge that bitty conversation as a sample of my ability to write dialogue…I swear I’m better than that!) Seriously, though, 95% of the people with whom I talk about my writing ask the publishing question first, then get this condescending, sympathetic look on their face when I tell them, no, I’m not actually published. Yet. As if being a writer is dependent upon getting published. As if publishing legitimizes the writing. Lies. I am a writer, dammit!
Whew. Got a little worked up there. Anyway.
The other thing that happens a good portion of the time is this response: “I have thought about writing a book.” or “I started a book once.” or “If I had time, I have so many great ideas for books I would write!” Now, I’m not trying to be that condescending, sympathetic person when people say this to me. In fact, I would love to have more writing buddies! But the way people say it…as if it’s not that hard if you have the time or the ideas. I truly believe that many people could be writers. But in order to be a writer, you must actually write. Even if you are writing badly.
One time, in one of my many toe dips into online dating (those are a story for another time…), this guy approached me (in the internet sense) by telling me that he was also a writer. I had not yet learned to be leery of such claims, so I enthusiastically responded, asking about what he wrote and how long he’d been writing, and any number of other cliche writing questions. His response? “I wrote like a page about a year ago.” Okay. Cool. We all work at a different pace. It took me three years to finish my first novel. So I asked what he wrote about. “Horror.” Awesome. Different genre than I’m used to, but there are plenty of amazing horror novels out there that leave me rocking in the corner after throwing the book in the freezer because the characters can’t hurt me from there. So how did he become interested in writing horror? “I work at Dairy Queen, and I thought of a lot of ways people could die.”
So here’s the point in all this babble. Writing is easy. Anyone can write. People compose Facebook statuses by the millions every day. But Writing (capital W, which I realize is hard to compare since I had to use a capital to start the sentence about writing [small w]) is hard. Really hard. Like birthing a child (or so I’ve heard), but over months of time. Serious Writing takes dedication and drive and a certain degree of masochism. But serious writers cannot help themselves.
Honestly, a couple years ago, even in the midst of writing my first novel, I wouldn’t have called myself a writer. But now, that’s exactly what I am. Among other things, of course. I have always written. Now I Write.
In the end though, no one can tell you if you’re a writer or not. You know if you are. And you don’t have to listen to anyone else tell you otherwise. Because you’re a writer, dammit. Just like me.
(Sidenote: Does the word “write” look strange to anyone else now?)