It was pointed out to me that the link in last week's post was broken (sorry!). So I did some research, and I'm not sure what happened to that author's website, but I've decided to resurrect this post here on my own site. The tone of that site allowed me to be a little snarkier than you may be used to, but I 100% stand behind the snark given the topic. Enjoy!
There is no shortage of posts and articles out there explaining what it takes to be able to call yourself a “real” writer. Some have simply outdated guidelines, like that you must have an agent and a traditional book deal, plus an advanced degree of course. Others include absurd requirements, such as creating weirdly codependent relationships with famous authors, entirely in your own head; desperately wanting a typewriter; or huffing the scent of books (rather than, oh I don’t know, reading them?).
But many “rules” are quite pervasive, appearing countless times, so let’s take a look, shall we? In order to be a “real” writer, you must:
- Write Every Day: Because the moment you’ve missed a day, or goodness forbid two, you lose the right to consider yourself a writer. No sick days, no family vacations, no breaks, and no days spent researching rather than writing; if you’re not writing every day, you’re not a writer. But then, if you can go an entire day without a desperate need to write something, which if unfulfilled will make you want to jump off a cliff, you’re obviously not a writer anyway.
- Couple quick questions, though, how many days in a row must someone “bank” before this rule comes into effect, transforming him/her into a writer? Is two weeks straight enough? 100 days? A full 365 in a row? And does it matter what you’re writing every day, or does a text message count?
- Some people take this all the way to prioritizing writing over healthy eating, sleeping, or basic hygiene. Because health problems are inspiration, and body odor will just help keep all those pesky people who distract you away.
So many more rules are constantly spouted, but how do you measure up so far? I definitely fail according to these rules [Still! Even almost 2 years from the original writing of this post!], so I’m definitely not a real writer. I have written four novels and published three, but that obviously means nothing in the face of this popular wisdom distinguishing between “real” writers, and those who are merely posturing—like me.
Sarcasm aside, no one really knows (or perhaps everyone believes s/he knows) at what point someone truly falls into this special category of “writer.” In some ways, “writer” is a false distinction anyway, as many people actually mean “professional writer,” “author,” or “successful writer,” and variations thereof.
If you’re looking for hard-and-fast rules, I say go do something more easily delineated, like becoming a lawyer or engineer. Otherwise, maybe we should be focusing on being writers, rather than calling ourselves ones. Or go get that MFA in Creative Writing, because earning that sheet of paper will definitely make you a writer.