Friday, March 9, 2012

What Makes You A Writer?

I am a writer. I have always defined myself as a writer, even as a young boy.

I have been a reporter (writer), editor (writer), professional photographer (writer) and social media manager (writer.) Now that I have published my first book I can call myself an author (writer).

All of these jobs were different, but each of them involved the same core skill: writing.

When I describe myself as a writer to someone they invariably ask, "what do you write?" and I have to explain how 'writing' fits into my current job description. Sometimes it fits better than others, depending on what the questioners expectations are of what I do.

See, we are all writers in one way or another. If you are literate you are, by definition, a writer. You write or at least you can write, therefore you are a writer.

To be a professional writer, to survive solely on your skill in putting together words and sentences in such a way that someone else will pay you to do this, well, that's something altogether different. It's also a recipe for personal and financial disaster for many of us.

It seems to me that writing therefore is both an art (done in solace and privacy and shared with no one) and a science (done for profit, within the rules, and for survival). I have reams of stories just waiting for me to do something for them, but my paying writing gigs always take precedence.

I am fortunate that I have been able to make a living doing what I love, but I imagine that I would have done it (and did do it) regardless of whether or not I could make a living at it.

The same is true of almost every writer I know. We create because we must, not because we should or can survive doing it. It's inherent in our existence.

I have survived for weeks (nay, months) on crackers and Ramen noodles, stubbornly pursuing my craft and no doubt many of you have done the same.

So now I ask you: What makes you a writer? How do you define yourself and why?

Tell me in the comments below.


Janet Parfitt said...

Because I love creating stories!

Raven said...

This is an interesting and timely post for me. I posted something on my blog not too long ago about my frustrations as a writer/artist. Are you a writer because you say so or because others think you are? I still wonder if I am writer since I struggle so much with producing content and writing (good) stories. Also, if no one is reading/recognizing your writing - what does that mean for you as a writer? I realize these are bigger, tangential questions, but I find them interesting bits that could be part of the discussion. Essentially, perhaps, being a writer means you write and enjoy it. And, everything that comes after that is cake.

Jerry Battiste said...

It helps if you think of yourself as an artist. Then you don't have to worry so much what others think because you are creating for the sake of creation! (But that's just my opinion. You have to find what's right for you.)


Jeri said...

I was a writer even before I could write. I would tell stories to anyone who would listen, including my stuffed animals. I spent years studying writing in college, then ended up teaching high school Englishf for six years, so I wrote multitudes for my job, but not so much for the pursuit of art. Now I'm back on track. I feel much more myself when I write! Now if I could only make a living from it...