What makes a writer a writer?

Joe’s Post #103

After reading Silk’s amazing post about what it takes to be a writer, it got me thinking and when I getz me a-thinkin’, I wanna write about it. Actually, I want to write about it more than I want to talk about it, but that just might be the introvert in me turtling in my little cave.

So, ok, yeah, what makes a writer a writer?

dickensI must admit I zoned a bit on Dickens, but what he said, in Joe-speak is this, write because it’s important to you and don’t expect anyone to say, hey, awesome, wow, gosh, here’s a billion dollars.

It’s that simple. Writers write. Because it’s important that they do.

They probably write a lot, but I’m not sure that’s even necessary. I mean, what’s a lot? Stephen King writes a book a week, I think. GRR Martin writes a book every 10 years or so. Ok, I exaggerate a bit, but you get my point. They’re both writers, yes?

But here’s what gets in my head. Here’s what gets in a lot of writers’ heads. Here’s what you hear a lot.

Have you been published? Have you got a book someone could read?

It seems that THAT is what makes a writer.

Sure, that’s a bit harsh, but not unfair.

from belief.net

from belief.net

However, if that’s why we write (to get published), then we are in for a certain amount of heartbreak. It’s hard to get published (and I’m talking books here), with the mainstream publishing houses. Hey, they want to make gobs of money and why in the world would they want to risk a ton of promotional dough on a newbie who’s writing about angels and dwarves and a one-eyed heroine?

I get that.

But there are other options for getting published. The e-publishing business is taking off like mad. However, with several writing friends taking that route, let me tell you (and this may not be a surprise), but getting people, a lot of people, to buy and read your e-book isn’t easy.

Silk’s right, both avenues take a LOT of work.

They don’t tell you this at the writing conferences. It’s the dirty little secret.

But does that hard work make us writers? It may make us SUCCESSFUL writers, but if we write, we’re writers. It’s that simple.

Let me take you back a few weeks. I had the honor of going to a company BBQ with the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world. We listened to the Beach Boys (who looked tragically old) and we even won a nifty prize, but I have to confess, I hate these types of events.


Because sometimes conversations go like this: “So, hey, I hear you’re a writer.”

Me: *gulp* “Errr, I guess, kinda, yeah,”

“A writer, eh? Where can I get one of your books?”

“I haven’t been published.”

“No?” They give me a look like I’m an actor who never gets an acting gig. “So what book are you writing?”

“Currently, I’m writing a thriller mystery about a Vancouver policeman who has to stop a serial killer who…”

“Is that all you do? You know, writing?”

“I also eat donuts.”

“Right. So no job?”

“They don’t pay me to eat donuts, no.”

“So, like, you don’t work.”


“Oh, wait, there’s someone I… uhm… bye.”

And that’s the concept that eats away at us writers. The idea that it’s not work or a career or a viable life choice. Money-wise, it might not be. Let’s be honest here. Money-wise, it’s gonna take a LOT of work.

But being a writer, answering the question of what makes a writer goes back to a simple thing. Writers write. Sure life throws us some curveballs, sure, there are times when you need to take a break, sure there are moments you doubt that you should even be attempting this madness, but if you write, a blog, short stories, articles for magazines or newspapers, novels, even creative letters to penthouse, you’re a writer.

It’s ok to be a struggling writer. It’s ok to not have anything published. It’s ok to just write.

As a successful writing friend of mine, Karen Abrahamson, said, “I write for myself.”

Isn’t that what Dickens was trying to say, the wordy bastard that he was?




10 thoughts on “What makes a writer a writer?

  1. And even when you are published, you still get the “I haven’t heard of you – what have you written?” And because you’re not a household name, yeah, it’s the “Oh, there’s George, hey, yeah, bye.” It takes a really hard shell not to react to those (I still don’t have it), so the best thing you can do is write for yourself. Write because you have something to say. I loved something that Stephen King said early in his career. “I don’t get paid to write. I get paid to publish what I write.” Yeah. That.

  2. I actually get more excitement from telling acquaintances than talking to my family about my book…I get the sympathetic look that says, “That’s okay. I’ll be there for you when it fails.”
    But I still don’t feel comfortable admitting I’m a writer even though most are supportive about me following a passion.

    • Certainly all my friends and family are supportive. Sometimes they seem to believe in my writing more than I do. 🙂 Being a writer is almost like having a dirty little secret.

  3. First see my comment on Silk’s post – then this – in the same way no-one takes you seriously when you say you’re a writer (because you don’t make money at it – yet) few take the work I put into the blog seriously (because I don’t make money at it – yet). I imagine it’s harder for you a) being male, and b) not being able to hide behind the ‘I’m retired’ answer. Still, in an ideal world we’d both be taken seriously in our creative endeavours. Wouldn’t that be sweet?!

  4. Joe, you’re right. Writers write, right? Right! Honestly, screw what other people think about it. The guy who ditches you at a party because you’re not famous probably works in some boring job with a paycheque and maybe not much else to recommend it. What’s he got to brag about? I think we should all start hanging around with more artists and creative people, and throw in a few wackos for flavour. Much better parties!

    • Craigslist ad: Looking for oddballs, weirds and whackadoodles, aka creative people. Must live about 80% inside your own head and 20% in the real world. Dreamers may also apply.

  5. Pingback: the bashful writer

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