Why all who write should think of themselves as writers. Period.

After more than 30 years in the business – and after seeing a LOT of writers and writing – I’ve never considered the qualifier ‘aspiring’ necessary for those starting out. You either write, or you don’t. The end. And personally, I hope that people who want to write – well, they’ll write.

Wright_AuthorPhoto2014_LoThat said, ‘aspiring’ to write (which still means actually writing, for most people who label themselves that way) is better than labelling yourself a ‘writer’ and not writing. I sometimes meet people at book launches like that. They are, they insist, ‘wraiters’ (seriously, this is how they talk), but when I push it turns out that ‘mai novel’ or ‘mai book’ is a figment of their pretension – a device they use to validate themselves as people, but which doesn’t yet exist. The reality of their personal gift to world literature is apparently going to spring full-blown – like Athena – from their imaginations once they find a few minutes to dash out the award-winning poem or novel with which to show their personal superiority over mere hoipolloi like me. You know:

Wraiter: Ai am exploring the haigher saide of literature in mai post-modern novel celebrating the themes of Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal.
Me (sculling a pint of beer): Urp. Yah. Beaudelaire? Porn.
Wraiter: Oh – er – um – do you wraite?
Me (grabbing a handful of hors d’ouvres from a passing waiter and scarfing the lot in one go): Sure.
Wraiter: Which house will you choose, when the taime comes?
Me (belching loudly): They choose you. So far I’ve been published by Penguin and Random House.
Wraiter: Oh – er – and what was your book exploring?
Me (looking for more beer): Which one? I’ve written and had published over fifty.
Wraiter (dropping affected accent): They can’t have been any good. (Pauses to re-compose) Nobody can wraite so much and be a proper wraiter.
Me (excavating left nostril with an index finger): If you say so. (Examining finger and wiping same on own shirt). Hey, you know where the bogs are around here?

The reality? Writing’s hard. Even for those who enjoy it – who love it. It’s still hard. It’s also a practical art. Hands-on and unpretentious. It doesn’t make those who do it special or intellectually superior – more pity those who imagine it does. And if you write enough – if you push writing in the directions it usually goes in – well, you’ll find hurdles. You’ll find boring patches. Sure. All jobs have them.

A job? Yah. Especially where income follows. And there are, indeed, times when slugging text out to meet the next deadline is indeed hard, or a bore, or a chore.

There are also plenty of hard yards to cross during the learning curve – and writers just gotta make that happen. Or they won’t learn. Or earn.

From that viewpoint, people who ‘aspire’ to write (but don’t), or who write when the muse moves – when it suits them, and who stop when it stops being fun – aren’t really writers. They’re hobbyists.

That’s fine too, but I think it’s some distance from the realities of practical writing as a career (which, itself, has many aspects and might well lead an author into different places). Do hobby-enthusiast writers make the transition? Sure. It’s from the hobby enthusiasm that most writers start. It’s also the start of the learning curve – and to me, one of the keys to that curve is to learn how to hold on to the unfettered joy of that beginning. It’s important.

Thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


8 thoughts on “Why all who write should think of themselves as writers. Period.

  1. LOL Matthew, that was very good. I think I met that person at the last writer’s group I went to. You should also do a series of posts on advice for perspiring writers about editors, agents and writers groups. Ooh, and don’t forget lack of self-confidence — that can be a killer. You know, that evil voice inside your head that constantly tells you you’re never going to do it. I’m serious. I’m not trying to take the mickey.

    1. There are a lot of ‘wraiters’ who don’t actually write. Kind of funny to talk to them. I should do some more stuff on publishing for sure – it’s one of the things I also do professionally and I have a fair handle on how it works.

  2. Dude, you had me rolling with that dialogue. I’ve actually, personally heard people that talk like that. In mere minutes I’m bored…and looking for the beer. They don’t realize how tiresome it is to hear people parroting catch-phrases by rote. I feel better now. It’s good to know I’m not the only one, good to settle down after a laugh, good to drink the rum on the table beside me.😉

    1. This dialogue is based on actual experience, though I must confess I don’t punk them quite as I portray here… they are a type, often sighted at literary gatherings and (alas) not anywhere near the endangered species list…

  3. Well said, Matthew! I always enjoy reading your blog.

    I particularly liked your dialogue with the “wraiter.” I often find myself reading blogs by wraiters who churn out tips and advice as if they’ve been nestling at the top of the bestseller lists for decades, throwing down their pearls of wisdom to us lesser mortals, and yet what do I find when I read their “About” page? They are still busy with the first draft of their first novel, and are simply regurgitating what they’ve learned from other sites.

    I admire their enthusiasm and their bucket-loads of self-confidence, but really?! Certainly they are way better than I am at selling themselves because, despite writing every day and having 3 e-books for sale on Amazon, I haven’t yet made enough money out of those books to throw a small dinner party, let alone try to make a living from writing.

    I am now on the 9th draft of my fourth novel, so people tend to call me slow, but I prefer the words meticulous and dedicated. I refuse to give up hope and will continue to write (and try to sell) them no matter what anyone calls me…

    1. I can usually spot the ‘how to’ blogs posted by people whose knowledge has come out of ‘how to’ books but isnt yet backed by much actual hands on experience… ☺ Good luck with your writing. Slow but steady often wins the day and one key trick is to not release until really ready.

  4. I haven’t met a ‘wraiter’ in the flesh, but I’ve met similar types in other walks of life. (The one that stands out was a posh woman in London I overheard saying ‘I wish I was unemployed; I’d use the time to travel.’)

    But the wraiters that annoy me, or maybe they’re wroitas, are the ones who think self-publishing twelve ‘how to’ manuals per year makes them an authority on literature. Change the titles from ‘How to Write That Killer Thriller,’ to ‘How I Made $500 000 Last Year Working Four Hours a Week’ and you get to see where the snake oil salesmen have migrated to. I’m sure they quote each other’s blogs in a sort of perpetual loop of nonsense.

    1. Absolutely. I can always tell when a ‘how to’ blog post is written without actual experience of the field. And a lot of the ‘guess what I found out is needed’ posts in terms of the criteria of the new online writing and publishing paradigm – well, actually that was true of the old one too. The fundamentals of writing and publishing haven’t changed. New tech has swept away the old barrriers to publishing – but what always counted, in all its aspects of quality, content, and need to address the human condition in all its myriad senses, still holds true. I guess it also won’t stop the pretentious who seem to validate themselves from an imagined emotional position that, in my experience, doesn’t exist in the real industry.

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