What Does it Mean to Be a Writer?
I love to write — in fact, it’s been the constant in my whole life ever since I was a child. I’ve grown up my whole life writing, and it wasn’t until 2017 when I started to pursue writing more seriously. I joined a writer’s group, and I’d meet with them once a month, and I began to learn the ins and outs of writing. It wasn’t until college when my writing began to seriously change.
I minored in writing, took up some creative writing classes, and read and wrote even more than I ever have. It would be normal for me to read through 100 pages every two days.
Here is where I began to learn how to really write. I learned foundational tips that I still use today. Things like Occam’s Razor, or Chekhov’s Gun — both I would argue are the best writing tips I’ve learned.
I am obsessed with writing. But, things can become difficult, especially when dealing with people who do not see writing as serious as I do.
I remember sitting down with a group of friends, and we were having a conversation about this recent show that we watched (I don’t remember the name). As we were talking about it, I voiced my displeasure with the show. I shared my criticisms due to flaws that I pointed out. But, amid the conversation, one of my friends said: “That’s just subjective. There’s no right or wrong way to view a show.”
Something in me twisted and turned. For the average person, they might say: “Yeah, that makes sense,” but for me, it did the opposite.
It made me feel upset.
Writing for me has always been black and white. There is a right way to write, and there is a wrong way to write. I’ve learned this from literary gods like Stephen King, through his book, ‘On Writing.’ Or in Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Consider This.’ They outlined how to write well. These books became so foundational that I still use them today for writing.
Ever since writing was created, writers have devoted their lives to learning how to write. They grabbed their literary shovels and dug in the hot sun for thousands of years in an attempt to find all the bones needed to create fascinating stories. All of this is done in the quest of creating the best stories one could imagine.
In some sense, all the authors before us have paved the way for writing. All we needed to do was just follow them.
So, whenever someone says: “Writing is merely subjective,” it does make me upset. That’s not to say that people don’t have the right to their own opinions, but it’s because it’s almost saying that creative writing, or just in general, writing, is not a serious art form. It’s almost as if all the hard work that writers have done before us amounts to nothing. I couldn’t accept that statement!
But, then something inside of me changed. I began having doubts. “Was he right? Is writing not objective?”
I started feeling my insides twist and turn — all my insecurities began to surface and stare at me in my face. If he’s right, then is everything in vain??
Apart of this fear stems from my love for writing. There aren’t many things that I’m good at. When writing is one of the only things that I excel in, then I put everything into it. I worked hard every day to perfect my craft. I didn’t just want to be good at writing, but I wanted to be GREAT at it. I’d argue that I’m still not a master of my craft — I’m just a student — trying to use the foundational tips to improve.
I know that I have met people who do not consider creative writing to be a serious art form. Some people think that writing is easy. A lot of my insecurities have stemmed from this, so I wanted to prove them wrong. I worked hard to create perfect stories. Ones that lacked flaws!
But, as time has passed, I have reflected on this philosophy. How healthy is it? Why do I get easily upset at people who scoff at writing? And more importantly, how can I change my outlook on writing to create a healthier relationship with it?
For those who feel the same way, I hope to pass on some stuff I have learned about myself in the process.
The biggest thing I’ve learned?
This was probably the hardest thing for me to learn, but there is a reason for it. I have developed an ego with writing, and I can pinpoint where it started. Throughout my whole life, people told me that I have a gift for writing. I ended up developing an unhealthy viewpoint of seeing myself better than non-writers.
The reason this matters is because writing is a skill that everyone needs to know. It’s used everywhere. If you look at every major at a college, pretty much every one of them uses writing in some form or another. Most hobbies don’t require this. Music is typically one reserved for music majors — art for art majors — math for math majors. But, writing is different. Everyone has to do it. For example, when my engineering friends are not working on math that goes over my head, they have to write papers on their projects.
There are two types of people — people who write (which is everyone) and writers (those who devote their life to it). As a result, all the people who write look to YOU as the writer and the ‘expert.’ You can see where the inflated ego comes in.
But, the ego is further inflated by insecurity. While people look at you as the ‘writer,’ there are others who scoff at the idea of writing (and creative writing more specifically) as a serious artform.
Pretty much every writer I met writes fiction (that’s not true for everyone, but it’s mostly true). However, a lot of people tend to think of writing fiction writing as ‘easy.’ Something that requires no skill whatsoever.
This led me to develop insecurities. I would savagely defend fiction writing as a serious art form. I believed that there was a right and wrong way of creative writing, and only those who disagreed with me were the uncultured ones.
So, I had a baseline ego with being seen as the ‘expert,’ but it was severely inflated because of my insecurities. What then? How does one go about dealing with this?
Simple: let go.
Not everyone is going to agree with your opinion, and that’s okay.
However, that’s doesn’t mean that writing is subjective. Those who write know how hard it is to write. Those who are experts became so because of objective foundational truths that they have followed. This is true even in fiction writing. Some people may continue to believe that there are no objective rules. If they wish to believe that, then that’s fine!
I’ve learned to accept within myself that I know writing is an art form. Just because others don’t see it that way doesn’t change anything. Some things have proven to work and other things have proven to not work.
But, this is not an excuse for arrogance. My opinion on one story is not an objective truth, but merely an opinion of a lover of the craft. Others may see things differently, and that is okay. And, just because I love something that other people don’t like, that doesn’t make them ‘uncultured,’ it just means they have different tastes.
But, I do want to end off on some great writing advice I found when scrolling through Unsplash. It’s this phrase, “Write without fear, edit without mercy.”
I won’t lie, I think sometimes writing can be scary. Jumping into the literary world can be so overwhelming and stressful. But, regardless of what skill level you are, I think it is so important to just write, and not let the fear get to you.
“Edit without mercy.” This is very similar to “kill your darlings.” Just because you like something in your writing, doesn’t mean you should keep in.
It’s okay to keep the ‘darlings’ in your first draft, but in all future drafts, they gotta go. I won’t lie when I say that this can be the hardest part of a draft. But, when you edit without mercy, it will be worth it. Kill your darlings! Show no mercy to them! They only want to hurt your writing, so edit without mercy!
I suppose I have yet to answer the question, but what does it mean to be a writer? Well, I think it means that you have a deep love for writing, but a strong conviction of improving your craft. You find joy in crafting words and weaving them together to create a masterpiece. But, more importantly, writing holds a special place in your heart, and you have a desire to showcase to the world what you have created.