by Christine Hennebury
If I could get paid everytime someone tells me that they must not be a ‘real’ writer, I could retire.
The truth is that there are many ways to be a real writer. There are, however, no definitive tests for writerliness. We all write in our own fashion, and at our speed, to get to where we are going with our writing.
As long as we are realistic about matching our expectations to our efforts, we will do just fine.
However, the myth of the ‘real writer’ persists.
You know the one I mean, right? The ‘real’ writer is the one who works with ease and discipline to immediately produce perfect prose.
I haven’t found a way to identify that mythical beast. I have, however, discovered certain common threads in the thinking of ‘real’ writers who doubt their realness.
I’m going to talk about three of these threads in this post. Hopefully, I can help convince you that you are, indeed, a real writer.
1) A real writer always has something to say
Writers often have lots to say on lots of things. That doesn’t mean that we have the words we need for the topic or story at hand.
Some writers produce a lot, some produce a little. The general rule seems to be that the more you write, the easier it is to get something down on paper. That it not at all the same as being able to write about a given topic at a given time.
All writers have to do battle with their words from time to time. Sometimes the words won’t come out. Or maybe the wrong words come out. Or we have lots to say on any other topic besides the one we need to write about.
Whether you can’t think of anything to say, or if you have lots to say on the wrong topic, you are still a real writer.
The key is to have multiple ways to get yourself started until you can figure out what you actually want to say.
2) A real writer doesn’t procrastinate
I almost want to reply to this one with just three gentle words. “Oh, honey, please.” but since you can’t hear my tone, I’ll go with something else instead.
EVERY WRITER PROCRASTINATES.
Go do a quick googling for ‘writing memes’ and see how many of them are about having a clean house because you are supposed to be writing. There are even more that are images of famous people with a reminder that the reader is supposed to be writing.
Writing is tricky work, even when you thoroughly enjoy it.
It is a lot easier to walk away from your story and do almost anything else.
This is especially true if you have some parts of writing that you don’t really enjoy.
Real writers procrastinate all the time. Procrastinating doesn’t mean that you aren’t meant to write. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are not a real writer.
There are are lots of reasons why we procrastinate and none of them have anything to do with whether we are real.
One trick to use here is to notice that you are procrastinating and see if you can identify what you are avoiding. Perhaps there is a way to ease yourself into that aspect of your project.
3) Real writers get it right
There is a word missing from that sentence.
Real writers get it right…eventually.
Most of us start out with an idea of the sort of thing that we want to say. We pour it out on to the paper and get somewhat close. Then we revise, multiple times. We get someone else to read it. We revise again.
There are very few circumstances in which doing things in a single draft is even possible. A jumbled, messy, garbled first draft is a necessary stage in the process of getting your words and ideas out into the world.
The fact that it takes you a long time (and multiple drafts) to get your work out there is not a bad thing. It’s just part of being a real writer.
More about real writers
If you write then you are a real writer.
If you keep coming back to the page, over and over, to try to shape your ideas into a coherent narrative – you are still a real writer.
If you send your work out into the world and it gets rejected – you are still a real writer.
If you need to push yourself to write – you are still a real writer.
All writers are challenged by some, or all, of the work involved in writing. Turning wispy thoughts into black and white words is not a straightforward thing. Repeated practice will remove some of the ambiguity from the process, but it’s not magic.
Writing is work. Like any kind of work, sometimes it will be easy and satisfying, sometimes it will be challenging and frustrating.
Having to figure out what to say, getting distracted, and making mistakes, are all part of the writing process. Those things are signs that you are, indeed, a REAL WRITER.
So, Real Writer, get back to those words!
Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her at christinehennebury.com or visit her on Facebook .