Why Call Yourself a Writer?


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There are two types of writers. Those who write because they have something to say, and those who write merely for the sake of saying they’re a writer.

It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re young or old, but a lot of people are solidly in the second camp. Most of the advice they get about writing only compounds this direction.

“Write all the time. Write for your college newspaper. Get an MFA. Go to writer’s group meetings. Attend writing conferences. Send query letters to agents. Build your social media platform.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good, sound advice. I’ve mentioned much of it here. But do you notice what most advice-givers never say?

“Go do interesting things.”

If you really want to be a writer, that’s probably the most important thing anyone can tell you. Think about it. Take any good piece of writing, something that matters to you.

Why is it good?

No one ever reads something for the very first time and says, “I got absolutely nothing out of this, and have no idea what any of it means but, wow, technically it sure is beautiful!”

But they will say “Damn, that was really good” all the time to things with questionable grammar and simple diction.

Why?

Because of what it says. More to the point, because of what the writer’s words manage to communicate. It’s because the story, technically perfect or not, is so good it speaks to you.

Stories to Tell
I’ve written fiction, off-and-on, my whole life. I earned a degree and an MBA. I spent decades working in advertising and public relations, but not much of it was focused on writing. If there is anything that’s good in my writing it came from things I did outside of school, outside of work, outside of the “craft.”

My technique developed from my life experiences, varied interactions with people and reading dozens of books a month. It was living through an explosive civil rights movement, and a city riot in Detroit. It was observing a war-torn America during the contentious Vietnam conflict, where several of my friends didn’t come home.

These experiences, among a lifetime of others, gave me a unique perspective and voice. I have been able to write about both the bright and dark side of life, because I was in a position to see some of it firsthand. It gave me something to say.

To quote Schopenhauer, the nineteenth century philosopher who contended that, at its core, the universe is not a rational place: “The first rule, indeed by itself virtually a sufficient condition for good style, is to have something to say.”

What Does That Mean?
If you want to be a writer, my advice of the moment is to put the fact you’re “writing” on hold for a while … and look around you.

It doesn’t have to take a long time. When you find something you can’t wait to share with the world, and I’m sure you will, you’ll have your chance to dazzle us.

I’m not advocating bailing out of your writing groups or composition classes. Practice and conversation among peers will always be worthwhile. I still try to attend a local Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group meeting every month. I’ve been doing it for years.

Like always, a lot of what I’ve said here is opinion and you can take it or leave it. My voice (to paraphrase a corny cliche) is just another in the wind. After all, there are many ways to become a writer.

But another part of writing today, that is an absolute truth, is an undeniable change in the economics of the business.

It used to be just getting “published” was the hard part. You had to impress some gatekeeper and that gatekeeper was an agent, or an editor at magazine, a newspaper or a book publisher. Today, with the explosion of indie publishing, there are seemingly infinite outlets for your writing (at least it sometimes feels that way).

But remember this, if you remember nothing else. With almost all of them, no matter how you ultimately do publish, traditional or indie, you’ll have to bring your own audience with you.

Getting published today is easy. Getting anyone to care …

That’s the hard part.

So, What Do You Do?
What matters more than any other single thing is that what you’re saying is interesting; that it provokes some response from people. You’ll only accomplish this if what you’re writing, particularly in fiction, is a compulsion rather than a vehicle to display how smart and well-trained you are.

So, think about it one more time. Are you writing because you want to be called an author? Or do you have things inside you feel compelled to communicate?

Do you have a story to tell?

Getting the answer to that single question right is the day you really become a writer.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

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You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or like my Book of Face page.

You can also find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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On March 1, 2018, Rochester Media started publishing my articles about writing. They will update twice a month. Come on over, take a look, and let me know what you think.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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