What It Means To Be “A Writer”

Yesterday my friend Duane launched an inaugural podcast dedicated to the craft and business of writing. He did a great job with it, sharing some of his own experiences and then riffing, briefly, on what it means to be a writer.

Prompted some thought.

From my vantage point, a writer is someone who:

  • Consistently pushes out work product, even if it’s not intended for widespread readership
  • Writes for compensation but nevertheless aims to release polished and useful prose
  • Loves the craft

You know who isn’t a writer? Someone who merely intends to write, or someone who pushes out paid work product with no regard for the feel of the prose (i.e, a hack).

To be a writer means more than just putting words to paper. The concept requires something more — a desire, deep down, to either tell a story, or to relay information with elegance and with an ear for the ebbs and flows of the language.

I know a lot of people who’ve never been published, but still put in the time. They’re writers. I also know a lot of people who get paid to write but don’t much care about what the final product looks like — these people aren’t really writers. They’re more like hired guns.

As a writer, I’ve seen my fair share of successes ($200 articles for 30 minutes of work, woohoo). I’ve seen my share of failures, too. Like rejections by editors who clearly didn’t understand the subject matter. No worries. I keep plugging away, just like Duane does.

Writing isn’t a glorious profession. Nor is it a functional description. Rather, it’s an avocation, a way of thinking and acting that recognizes that words mean things and that stringing them together requires inspiration, not just perspiration or aspiration. It requires a willingness to grow your craft, to learn and to advance and to experiment. It requires you to write.

Don’t let the bastards get you down. Then again, don’t let the bastards within stop you from starting in the first place.

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