Am I a writer or do I just like saying I am? A question I’ve had to ask myself in both past and present.
By definition, a writer is anyone who writes. Wow, that sure is broad. Does writing a check make you a writer? What about the kindergartener learning to print his name, is he a writer?
In my case do a handful of short stories count? I was paid for them, but does that make me a writer? I’ve taken classes, gone to seminars; does that meet the criteria? I’ve read books on the craft, is that what it takes? Then there’s that novel I’m reworking and the countless others I’ve never finished.
Am I a poser instead of a proser?
Doubt creeps in as the others in my writing group ask my advice. What qualifies me to give it when my own works don’t grace the shelves of bookstores? Belief spouts off opinions as Doubt and Fear peek out from dark corners and Reason screams, ‘What the hell are you doing?’
Doubt and fear as well as reason can be powerful tools. They keep my head from expanding when I receive a complement and push me to do better when I get constructive criticism. They can also keep you from moving forward. Doubting your work can throw a blanket on your progress. Fear can add water to that blanket and snuff the fire of inspiration behind the work. Reason can become excuses or ‘reasons’ for not finishing. Life gets in the way. My critique group/partner found too many things that need fixing/fleshing out, so I’m just going to scrap the whole thing. I have to have every detail spelled out for me before I start writing. My personal favorite, I need to do more research.
Yes, life gets in the way, but if you want this, you have to make time to write.
Critiques are not for the overly sensitive, if you are, this is not the business for you. On the other hand, you should pick your partner with care. There are those with the soul intent of ripping you to shreds to make themselves feel superior. If you truly believe in your story, don’t give up. You can take the suggestions and run with them or choose to ignore them. They are suggestions, not law, but don’t use them as an excuse to quit.
Personally, I don’t need a step by step instruction guide to make it through a story. I do need a start and end point as well as a basic idea of where the story is leading me. (Note: I’m not talking about the synopsis here, that is a post for another day or perhaps one of my cohorts will cover it.) I used to outline every little plot point, but I learned that was an excuse for me not to finish. Yes, I have to go back and clean it up after I’m done, but you have to do that anyway. For some outlining works and I respect that, just don’t let it become an excuse for never finishing.
My favorite is the research excuse. Oh no, I’m not reading for pleasure I’m looking at story construction. I can’t write that part or flesh out that character because I need more research. I’m not surfing the web I’m doing research. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used this excuse.
Published or not, paid or not, writers write. Writing is physically and mentally taxing on its own. Don’t make it harder. Try pouring all the time and imagination you put into making excuses into your writing. You can either plant your butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard and write or continue making excuses.
Unless you enjoy being a poser.