Busting the Myth*

How often have you heard beginner writers say “Oh, I couldn’t call myself a writer!” as if a writer could only be a white middle aged man who smokes a pipe or drives across the country while ingesting mushrooms? Do you dream of writing but think somehow that it can never be done (Kerry, honey, I’m talking about you)?

I cry bullshit. A writer is someone who grabs a tiny bit of time from work and life and writes. She stares at the page and cries. She writes nothing but crap for days and days until she suddenly writes something she likes. It’s not a club. It’s not a mystical state of being. It’s showing up.

And the poets. Oh the poets. People hated poetry in high school (you had to read Alexander Pope, no wonder you hate it!). Other writers consider you as another being, possibly another species, because they can’t imagine composing a scene in 60 words. They think you are somehow a purer writer than they are. Bullshit. You should see how bad my plots are.

People think they can only write poems when the muse strikes them. Bullshit. Grad school taught me, if nothing else, that you can pull a decent poem out of your ass no matter what your mood if you try hard enough. It’s not that I sit there and talk to angels. Nope. I practice writing. I tried to write every morning. Sometimes I was successful, other times I failed. But then when I needed to write a poem for workshop that was oh due  tomorrow, the practice paid off. I could write something that I only hated a little.

There are always a million reasons not to write. Your house is a mess; your kids are demanding; your wife wants you to cook her dinner. Do it anyway. Tillie Olson (or was it Lucille Clifton?) wrote short pieces because it was all she could remember while she was at her ironing board. As Andy Ihnatko says writing looks like it should be easy and effortless, but don’t let that fool you, it never is.

So, my friends, don’t let some stupid romantic ideals keep you from writing. Consider it a job, a responsibility, a profession. You generally don’t usually skip work because you have to wash your dishes do you?

*(Don’t even bother to tell me that my title is grammatically incorrect.)


10 responses to “Busting the Myth*

  1. Thanks for this. It’s strange to consider the striations we assign to writerhood. Like, I’d immediately call Kerry a writer, because she publishes amazing pieces on her blog that aren’t anywhere near “typical” blog posts. And I don’t feel like I struggle with the concept of writerhood like she does (Kerry, doll, don’t you love how we’re talking about you in the third person here?). I do write a little nearly every day, but something about picking a topic and chewing on it doesn’t seem like writerhood, it seems like just blogging. I don’t know. Is this making any sense?

    This sounds hokey but (gulp), you’re inspiring me to work harder on writing. There. I said it. Now I’ll leave you to go dry heave over a sink.

    • You SHOULD work harder on your writing, goddamnit!

      Blogging is writing. Bloggers who chew interestingly on their topics are writers. Not everyone wants to write a book, but if you do, get the fuck off the internet and do it. (Now I’m going to stop writing this comment because I’m at work and someone is going to look over my shoulder any minute and my secret identity will be blown.)

  2. Pingback: My Own Private NaNoWriMo | writeitdown-ith

  3. Oh I like this. Lately I’ve been trying it out, this “I’m a writer” business. I still feel like a fraud saying it but since you say that blogging qualifies, what the hell. It’s better than saying, “I’m a navel gazer.”

  4. See, I identify with the pipe-smoking guy with the tweed jacket with suede elbow patches. Or the quirky female college professor: single and frumpy with a disheveled office creating a masterpiece between English Lit classes.

    Not me: a daily churn and burn with no real thought processes other than trying to pull a post out of my ass.

  5. Pingback: The Cult of Poets | Fangs and Clause

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