Crossposted from my other blog...

I tend not to say an awful lot while I'm online. Mostly, I 'listen' to the conversations going on on message boards and lists, learning and picking up interesting tips and tidbits as I go along. I'm still too new at this, and a bit too unknown as a published author to have much of importance to add.

I have to admit that there are times when some of my fellow authors do and say things that leave me scratching my head. There are writers who seem to feel all authors are involved in some sort of vicious competition for readers, and that it behooves them to do everything in their power to sabotage those around them. In their opinion, anyone who hasn't jumped through all the same hoops they did isn't worthy of the name 'writer' and should be slapped down with utmost speed. Those who haven't been published yet are beneath their notice. I believe the term that often crops up in these cases is 'wannabe'.

Frankly, it's a form of 'me-ism' that turns me off. Thank you for revealing your attitudes, folks. I have quite enough stuff in my TBR pile as it is. I'm thankful that you stepped right up and took your books out of the stack.

I'm not going to point at specific individuals or organizations. That's not what this is about. It's about what makes a writer a writer.

We all, or at least most of us, learned to write in school. We learned to put words on a page in an order that made sense. Under that definition of the word, we are all writers. We all use those basic skills in some form or another in everyday life, even if it's just in making out the grocery list. That's not, however, what most people think of as being a writer. But they are the basic skills that all writers begin with.

The major difference between most people and 'writers' is that writers take those basic skills and try to convey something with them. Not all writing fields are fiction, though that's the one I'm the most familiar with. Writing is like any other skill--you start out with the basic understanding of how it works, and you work upward from there. You wouldn't spend two hours learning how to toss a set of juggling balls back and forth between your hands, and then expect to get on stage and juggle fire. The flashy tricks come after perhaps years of practice. But it's interesting to note that jugglers who are at the beginning of learning, who have mastered the basic skills and are working their way upward a bit at a time toward that goal of juggling fire, are not called 'wannabes,' except perhaps by those with a high opinion of themselves. They're simply less skilled jugglers.

If you're at the beginning, you feel the drive, you have stories to tell, and you're working on your skills, you're a writer. Publishing is a wonderful goal, a validation of your hard work, but like juggling fire, unless you're that extremely rare, extraordinary person, you're not going to get there overnight, and certainly not without the hard work. In fact, most of what is called 'overnight success' is actually the result of years of hard work.

The only time 'wannabe' should apply to any 'writer' is when that 'writer' makes big claims about the books he's going to write and how he's going to be the biggest thing since sliced bread, but never makes an effort to see it through. That's a 'wannabe', he wannabe a writer, but doesn't want to put the effort into actually being one. 'Wannabe' should never be applied to writers who are making the effort to learn and practice their skills. It's a put-down meant to squash, a knee-jerk reaction that expresses more about the one saying it than the one it's being applied to.

I know I've used the W-word quite a lot in this post. And by that, I mean 'work'. Writing is a skill that requires an apprenticeship of sorts, though nobody ever tells us that. We're taught the basic skills and then tossed out into the world to flounder around until we either figure out what we're doing or give up. If you're at the beginning and you're wise, you'll seek out a group, or maybe several groups, where you can get your work critiqued. Expect that you'll be doing your fair share of critiquing. You learn by reading what works and what doesn't in other people's work, as well as having your own strengths and mistakes pointed out to you. Don't think you're not going to make mistakes. It's how you respond to them that will make a difference in whether you'll get to your goal or not. And just because your name isn't in Books In Print, don't let anyone ever tell you you're not a writer. You may not be a published writer, but you are a writer.

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Comment by carole gill on September 1, 2009 at 12:18am
Hi B.R.!
I see your point, that actually is the true artist--he/she writes because they have to.
Good point!
Comment by carole gill on September 1, 2009 at 12:11am
Yes Pepper, I agree with you.
There are those who bleat about various things and don't seem to ever get published.
That aside, the best quote I ever read--unfortunatley I might no longer have it word for word--but that quote went something like this:
the greatest book never written is not as good as the worst book ever published.
As for your question: I like to think that all writers are motivated strictly to create and that money is secondary.
Yes I suppose for any of us to want our words read, we have to think highly of our abilities but I think there are degrees of that and we can still have some humility.
(or am I being foolish)?!
very interesting discussion btw Pepper.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on August 29, 2009 at 12:15pm
All of us have a compulsion to write. That's it. Whether we ever get published or not truly is meaningless. We have to write.
Comment by Jon Loomis on August 29, 2009 at 11:42am
"Writer" is such a generic it's almost meaningless. Hard to imagine anything sillier than arguing over who is and who isn't. If you write, you're a writer.
Comment by Pepper Smith on August 29, 2009 at 9:42am
Some time ago, I read a remark someone had made about an interview with a long-time published author, about how the author's attitude in the interview came across as an unexpected mix of arrogance and humility. It got me thinking about the things that make a successful author, and those two qualities are right there at the top.

If you think about it, it takes an enormous amount of arrogance to think anything we write would be interesting to anyone else, and yet that's exactly what we do, write down these things in our heads and hand them off to other people to be read. We all tend to have big dreams about getting rich off our writing. Reality tends to be a rude awakening for us. People tell us we're not nearly as good as we think we are.

This is where the humility comes in. If we have that part of the equation, we have the chance to improve and make it as writers. Without it, we're unable and unwilling to see where we make mistakes and change what we're doing. When you see writers who shake their fists at the world and scream about how unfair all those stupid editors and agents are who won't give their masterpiece a chance, it's a pretty fair bet which quality they have in abundance, and which they're lacking.

LOL! It is pretty arrogant to write a thesis on getting published if you've never been published, even more so if you've never finished anything. I'm almost afraid to ask what sort of grade he got on his thesis.
Comment by Pepper Smith on June 21, 2008 at 11:50am
Thank you, Carole.
Comment by carole gill on June 20, 2008 at 5:38pm
Your blog post is just about the best, most valuable piece I've read on this site in the year that I've been here.
I commend you, Pepper!

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