I sit at my desk, breakfast finished, coffee made. It’s the thirty minutes or so before I need to settle into work for the day – about five thousand words and some plotting and planning for May. So I occupy my time on the internet, because why not? Scroll, scroll, I like a post here, reblog there. Maybe I leave a comment.
I come across a post.
I do a double take.
“GUESS WHAT WRITER!? YOU’RE STILL A FUCKING WRITER EVEN IF YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN ANYTHING LATELY!”
O… okay. I guess I’ll just sit here and stare at my computer screen in a perpetual daze, not writing a thing, but somehow, I’m a writer.
Now, I get it. It’s an affirmation. Motivation. That push to remind you that you’re the thing even if maybe you’re not doing the thing as regularly as you should. It’s supposed to bolster you. Here’s my issue.
To be a writer, you have to write.
I’ll say it again: To be a writer, you have to write. Something. Anything. But you have to do the work to claim the title. This often involves writing even when you don’t want to, or when you’re tired, or when you’re not feeling motivated, or when writer’s block sets in. This is common. Writing doesn’t come without obstacles. You just have to bust them down. By writing. I think it does a great disservice to people who are writers or who want to be writers to foster this idea that going without writing is somehow a thing. That you don’t have to put in effort.
Please note, this is mostly for people who want to be writers for a living. It also doesn’t really pertain to people who have established works and can probably live off those works for the rest of forever. This is for the writers, who are writing now – or maybe not, who knows – who want to claim the title.
Perhaps it irks me more than it should because as someone who writes for a living ‘not writing anything lately’ means that I’m out of a job. It means I’ve let my lack of motivation ruin my discipline – something that you simply cannot do when you claim to be a ‘writer.’ No one is going to take you seriously if you sit around and tell people, yeah, I’m a writer, but I have nothing to show for it. But I’m a writer. In spirit.
That one hundred words back in the early 2000’s qualifies me, indefinitely.
Mostly, I think it’s because it’s rather silly and wrong to claim that you can be something without actually doing the work required to be that something. You are not an artist if you do not produce art. You’re not an architect if you do not design buildings. I think people like the idea of being a writer, but when it comes down to doing the work of a writer, suddenly they’re pulling their shades down and their computer is nowhere in sight and their fingers don’t work.
Writing is enjoyable, but it is also work. It requires dedication. It requires discipline. Motivation is merely an excuse when it is lacking. It’s nice to look at writing as this lofty, I’ll get to it when I’m blessed with mystical inspiration shining down unto myself from between the clouds of an overcast day parting just right – but that’s not how it works. I wish more people understood this. Unless writing is merely a hobby, in which case I think the better distinction is ‘you write’ as opposed to ‘you’re a writer,’ in the same vein that I can tell people ‘I play musical instruments,’ but it’s been years since I’ve dedicated myself to being a musician.’