What Makes a "Real" Writer?
I’m finally home from speaking in Pennsylvania. Was honored to keynote for The Write Stuff Conference and super sad to leave. I get so attached to the writers and miss them when I have to go. Their passion, imagination and enthusiasm never fails to inspire me. I’d keep them and collect them in my basement except apparently this is called “taking hostages” and is “illegal” *rolls eyes*
…that, and I don’t have a basement.
I never prepare a speech. I’ve tried. But I am too ADD and end up ignoring/forgetting everything I prepared, so why not save time? Also, I present quite often and never want attendees to feel like they will hear the same things from me. Every class, every presentation is new. I love listening to those around me so my content fits better because it’s custom made.
This said, when I arrived in Pennsylvania, I had no idea what my keynote would be about specifically, so I had to keep my ears open for the common themes.
There is NO Aspiring
Some of you have fallen for this when I speak. I will begin and ask how many aspiring writers are in the room. Yes, it is a trick question and yeah, it is more than a little evil of me, but it never fails to make a point. When the timid new writers “follow instructions” and raise their hands I yell, “NO! Stop it! You are a pre-published writer. Do or do not; there is NO TRY.“
Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for the weak and it takes guts to do this job.
Hey, I did it too. When I was new, I’d written tens of thousands of words, spent every spare moment reading about writing, studying, going to writing groups instead of the mall. I spent every spare bit of money on conferences instead of a vacation…but I was aspiring? NO. Writers WRITE. Stop being existential. We are REAL.
No one meets a lawyer who just passed the bar and asks if they are a “real” lawyer.
Really? A lawyer? How many cases have you won?
Granted there are aspiring writers. They are pretty easy to spot because they say the same crap:
Yes, well I want to write a book, but I just have to find the free time.
My life is SO interesting. It would make a GREAT novel. Hey, how about I give you my story, you write the book and I will give you half?
Writers Deserve RESPECT
This is my new hot button and I’m going to handle future interactions very differently because I’ve had enough. I spent all day Wednesday traveling across the country. Didn’t get to bed until midnight. Presented from 8:00 in the morning until almost 6:00 in the evening. We were rallying to leave for dinner at the bar of the hotel’s restaurant and THIS conversation actually happened:
Guy at Bar: *looks at me and two fellow authors and starts polite conversation* What are you doing here?
Me: We are writers.
GAB: Really? *genuine shock face* You are writers? Like…real writers?
GAB: Real writers? People actually DO that? For a living? This is your real job?
GAB: How much money do you make? You can live off that?
OKAY, I am DONE. I have had this conversation WAY too many times. So, the next time someone does this the conversation is going to look like this:
Me: Well, what do you do?
GAB: Human resources. I’m an HR manager.
Me: Wow *genuine shock face*. People DO that? That’s a real job?
Me: Are you sure? Don’t they have an app for that? Or robots? How many people are you in charge of? Can people make money at that? Really? HR. You can live off that? How much money do you make?
And THIS is why Kristen requires adult supervision 😀
Thing is, yes humans do write for fun or for a hobby. But if we are asked what our job is and respond, “I’m a writer” odds are we are not writing bad haiku on a Starbuck’s napkin all day.
And I get it. Writers (creative professionals) are like unicorns. Everyone knows about them just they would be pretty shocked to meet a real one. Yet, what other profession has to endure this amount of disrespect? No one else has to cough up a tax return or show a profit to prove their job exists.
Keep this in mind. If we don’t respect who we are and what we do then why would anyone else?
I hate the term “aspiring writer” because it takes guts to do this job. Everyone loves what we do. Their lives would implode without it. Without writers there would be no entertainment, no instruction, no industry. No movies, no television series, no books, no manuals, textbooks, magazines, newspapers, trade journals, warning labels, laws, speeches, and all songs would be instrumental. No lyrics. Heck there wouldn’t even be an Internet.
It would be all pictures of cats.
Modern society hinges on writers. If we can take a step back and truly take in all we contribute it’s easier to own our profession and value it. Most people take what we do for granted because they fail to make the connection that their favorite television show began as an idea and started with a writer.
They just assume they will log onto the Internet and be able to google anything they want. It’s easy to forget someone wrote that information.
So yes, I get it. This is a tough job. But if what we do didn’t matter then why is it dictators arrest and shoot the writers first? 😉
Writing is More than Literacy
Yes, it is probably great to be literate to become a writer, but what we do is more than stringing words together in sentences. We have a unique set of eyes and see the world in a way mere mortals cannot. I saw this mannequin while out shopping with the family. I guarantee you that hundreds of people had passed by without wondering why the mannequins were getting too fat for their cardigans.
Before my keynote, a fellow writer told me the story of how he was staying in a hotel that was run by foreigners. We’ve all seen the signs clearly written by someone who didn’t have English as a first language. Anyway, he’s in the bathroom and there is this sign that reads:
Beware of Soap Dish
I have NO idea what that warning was trying to convey, but as a writer? What the hell is so dangerous about that soap dish? It is demonic? Does it try to eat people when they sleep? Does it steal souls? I might have even had to call management to know exactly what makes this particular soap dish so sketchy…
And THIS is the stuff writers think about 😀 .
What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with apologizing for what you do? Do you get tired of having to justify your profession? Are you now going to ask people if they are real doctors?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of MARCH, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Also, for more help on how to use characters to ratchet anxiety to the nerve-shreding level, I am finally back teaching and offering my Understanding the Antagonist Class on April 18th and YES, it is recorded in case you miss or need to listen again because this class is jammed with information.
I LOVE teaching this simply because our antagonists are pivotal for writing a story (series) readers can’t put down. Yet, too often we fail to harness characters for max effect. I look forward to seeing you there! I also offer the Gold level for one-on-one. Maybe you’ve hit a dead end. Your story is so confusing you need a GPS and a team of sherpas to find the original idea. Instead of wasting time with misguided revisions, I can help you triage your WIP and WHIP it into fighting form 😀 .
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.