Saturday, November 21, 2009

Who is a Writer?

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~ Robert Benchley

It only takes having one child to make parent. Following that logic, one might assume that one paid-for-published piece of writing would make one a writer. But it’s not that simple, and if that was the case, I would have been a writer 25 years ago.

To call oneself a writer can be considered presumptuous, if you are not financially successful at it or well known. But there are all degrees of being a writer, and just like actors can act in local theaters and still consider themselves actors, writers write locally too.

My definition of a writer is a person who is compelled to write, and if there is no payment involved, it only further confirms that they are one. A person who will work for days to find the just right word and the right order of every written line without the incentive of compensation is either a writer or not completely sane. When I say “I’m a writer,” I’m not necessarily claiming to be a “good writer.” I am saying that writing is what I’m interested in and what I do, more than anything else.

I started to refer to myself as a “poet” before I would say I was a “writer,” more to explain that I’m “a little different” than to describe a profession and, ironically, because I was asked to provide a bio-note for something I had written. By different, I mean that I am highly sensitive to my environment, slightly socially awkward and distracted (thinking about other things, like writing), and I can not thrive in a corporate work setting, or even hold a 9 to 5 job. You know, a poet.
People do cut some slack for writers, but they also want to know what novel you’ve had published. And being published, while it does happen from time to time, is like going to Hollywood and trying to get “discovered,’ and you don’t, so you come back to act in local theaters. Why is it if I say "I’m a mother,a foster care provider, a jeweler, or a shopkeeper" no one asks to see my credentials?

I suspect that most people’s hobbies are their real jobs and that their job should be the hobby, and if that was the case, think how many more writers and artists there would be. Confucius believed that all wisdom came from learning to call things by the right name. I’m all for naming who you are and what it is you do. That’s part of making it come true.

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