Who Is A Writer?

From Lesson One: Writing With Intention

Beautiful Blooms

How does a person become a writer? Who or what is a “writer” anyway? Is a writer someone who has been paid money to write? In order to be considered a “real writer” does someone have to be published? If so, in what kind of publication? Would a self-published blog be enough? How about a church newsletter? The local paper? A literary magazine? The NEW YORKER or some other national magazine? A book publishing company?

What about a student newspaper or literary magazine? Or a photocopied manuscript that you’ve bound yourself and given to your grandparents for their anniversary?

This is a question students ask (and all writers secretly–or not so secretly–ponder).

Stephen King in his great book about writing called ON WRITING says:

I don’t believe writers can be made, either by circumstances or by self-will (although I did believe those things once). The equipment comes with the original package. Yet it is by no means unusual equipment; I believe large numbers of people have at least some talent as writers and storytellers, and that those talents can be strengthened and sharpened.

Natalie Goldberg in WRITING DOWN THE BONES, does not give a definition, but rather asks the question “Why write?”

“Why do I write?” It’s a good question. Ask it of yourself every once in awhile. No answer will make you stop writing, and over time you will find that you have given every response . . . Yet it is a good and haunting question to explore, not so you can find the one final reason, but to see how writing permeates your life with many reasons.

She also says, “Don’t worry about your talent or capability; that will grow as you practice.”

Here is what I believe: A writer is someone who writes with intention.

When you write, you are present, engaged, explaining or exploring or describing the topic at hand. Not striving at first to write a great poem or story (although you probably will, eventually, want to edit and prune and expand and make it the very best your talent allows), but rather opening yourself up to the topic, reaching deep, getting to the truth of things. More on this later on.

A writer writes with a goal in mind, an idea that begs to be explored, or with a serious intention to create an image with words, to play with language, to see what you can do with the medium of words the way a sculptor creates with the medium of clay or a painter creates with the medium of watercolor paints. A writer likes to tell made-up stories (fiction writers), or wants to capture a moment in rhythms and imagery (poetry writers), or enjoys giving information in a vivid, complete way (journalists), or likes telling true stories about places, people, things (non-fiction, narrative writers, memoirists, diarists, etc.) A writer writes in order to see how a story or poem or narrative idea will turn out on the page.

This may sound serious (it is), but it is not so serious that it becomes a chore–at least not all the time. Because when you are a writer, at heart, writing is work and play at the same time. You may procrastinate sitting down to write. You may dread it. You may drag yourself kicking and screaming to the notebook or computer. In the end, though, when you get yourself down to the business of scribbling or tapping away, something magical happens. Your brain engages. You energy begins to flow out into words and sentences and images and rhythms. Time speeds up. If you come out of the zone for a minute or two (to stretch or have a drink of water–highly recommended, by the way) you realize, gasp! You are enjoying the process.

Maybe it is THIS that makes you a writer. We feel engaged, happy, useful, “in the zone” when we are doing what we are meant to do or have the capability of doing well.

To read the entire lesson, click HERE.

2 responses to “Who Is A Writer?

  1. I am glad that we are both writers and that we take the time to explore our gifts. Thank you for your blog and inspirations. I think that’s something that makes a reader- a gift that compels others to read what you have to say whether it is a piece of fiction or a news piece.

    • I am proud of us, MA…we are still out there putting words on paper after all these years. Writing really IS its own reward. It is the writing that really gives us that sense of accomplishment and a feeling of doing what we’re supposed to be doing. That’s why I love writing this blog. (Plus I’m big on instant gratification:) Anytime you want to post something on here. . . let me know!! I’m serious. I’m sure my dear readers would like a change of voice once in awhile!

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