Sunday, May 18, 2008

Real writing

It's quiet this morning, except for the sound of the refrigerator which is pretty empty right now. I've been up for hours and have caught up all my email and the usual morning rounds, including fixing a typo in my last post mentioned by a fellow amateur radio operator and newsletter editor in Las Vegas who wrote that he didn't know I was a real writer. I had to smile at that, especially when he said he didn't mean to offend me. It's a comment I've heard a lot over the years and my definition of real writer has changed quite a bit as I grew as a writer and as a real writer.

To most people, a real writer is someone who has their name on a book as sole author and to others a real writer is someone who has published hundreds of articles, discounting any writer who has ghost written a book or article or contributed a chapter to a book or a story to an anthology. Many well known writers were not considered real writers because they wrote books for Young Adults (YA) or because they didn't write literary novels, and this is something I have addressed before, and probably will again.

To put it simply, a real writer writes. So why do so many writers feel the need to justify themselves with lists of their accomplishments (other than for a bibliography or to land a job) and credits over and over? Is it because they don't think they are real writers or are they just looking for yet another pat on the back as validation of what they should already know? Or is it the knowledge that if they don't constantly remind people of what they have done they will be forgotten and overlooked? In a way, it's like choosing from a menu at an Oriental restaurant: One from column A, one from column B and two from column C.

Harper Lee only had one book published, a book that continues to sell. She wrote another book that purportedly was no good, but that does not change the fact that she is a real writer. And I could continue listing writers, and poets, published posthumously that are real writers. Where the rubber hits the road, a real writer writes. That includes editors of newsletters who write and edit articles month after month and are never recognized for the job they do. It's all about the writing not about anyone else's perception of what a real writer is or isn't because someone will always find a way to exclude someone else to make themselves feel better and point to their own accomplishments as the only accomplishments worth noting, and that is all about jealousy and fear. The fear is that another writer is better than they are or more prolific.

Some writers are technically better than others but that doesn't make them better at everything. Every writer has something they do well and, if they're smart, the more they read and write the better they will become. In the end, it's not about who is a better writer or more prolific but about the writing itself. The writer's job is to tell a good story or present information in a clear and memorable way. The rest is details. Even good writers make mistakes and fail to tell a good story or leave the reader scratching his head wondering what happened, but they keep writing and reading because good writers know that in order to continue growing as a writer they must also read -- voraciously. Writing is not created in a vacuum, just as the knowledge a writer gains is not worth much if it isn't shared and built upon.

I am a writer, not because I have written X number of articles and stories or been published in X number of books, but because I write. Like I said, it's simple. A real writer writes.

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