When I first started writing, I couldn’t even call myself a writer. I had been NOT writing for seven years before I joined a silent writing program that I went to once a week to sit down and scrawl out a mess of pages that seemed to be all over the place, and which I had no hope of ever turning into anything good.
The other people there, in my eyes, were real writers. They had plans. They were finishing their memoirs, looking for agents, querying, seeking critique and feedback, swapping manuscripts. Me…I was just off by myself in the corner, too shy to talk to the group and too terrified to show anyone the pages I worked on so slowly and tortuously. Writing was hard for me, and it didn’t seem to be that hard for anyone else. I lived in constant doubt that this observation of mine proved I wasn’t cut out to be a writer.
There are a lot of tips and advice out there on what makes for a great writer. I’ve written on this topic many times before, myself. It takes persistence and determination, say the experts. Writers have to be brave, says Charles Bukowski. You have to be clear on your goals, ready to receive hard feedback, and have an organized daily schedule, says the internet.
However, I’ve actually met and befriended hundreds of real life writers and I can say with a good degree of certainty that not all of us are all of these things. Or, we’re only some of these things some of the time. The rest of the time we’re disorganized, self-doubting, afraid, and not at all ready to hear harsh criticism of our work.
It’s hard to talk about what it means to be a writer to other people who are not writers.
Because most of the time, they really, really don’t get it.
When you tell someone who is not a writer that you’re writing a book they usually ask one of these types of questions: