Are You a “Real” Writer? (Humor)

Hi Folks,

This topic doesn’t really fit with the current series of how-tos I’m posting here, so I thought I’d slip it in as a bonus. Just some things to think about.

A couple months ago on Facebook, which as we all know is a fount of absolute wisdom, someone posing as a professional fiction writer posted that writing is a “deliciously tedious travail” or some such nonsense. Yeah, I’m not kidding.

Being who and what I am, I quickly tossed in my two cents: “If you think writing is hard, you aren’t doing it right.” I then mentioned Heinlein’s Rules and the URL (my website) where the person could download a free copy. That’s it. (By the way, that’s http://HarveyStanbrough.com/downloads/. Hint: It’s not just for SF writers.)

About nine hours ago as I write this, someone else posted “U [sic] obviously are’nt [sic] a real writer.”

Oh man! Caught me!

Well, I’m just SO embarrassed at being exposed as a fake that I thought I’d better come out in public.

If being a “real” writer entails enduring “deliciously tedious travail,” then I guess I’m just not a real writer.

Now don’t get me wrong. I really really really WANT to be a real writer, but it’s just so HARD to write with one forearm flung dramatically across my forehead as I complain about how difficult my “process” is.

I understand now that “real” writers spend hours and hours THINKING about writing and TALKING about writing. Apparently that’s part of their process. And then from what I can gather, advanced “real” writers such as the Facebook respondent apparently spend more hours CHATTING about writing in online groups.

But I don’t do any of that.

For a long time, I’ve called myself a writer. Apparently I was wrong.

Somewhere along the line, I got the moronic notion that a fiction writer, by definition, is a person who puts new publishable words of fiction on the page. Probably I got that idea from Dean Wesley Smith, another not-real writer who does none of the above but has well over 17 million books in print through traditional publishing. Many MANY more now that he’s gone strictly independent.

If you look up many professions in the dictionary, you’ll find that a lawyer practices law, a mechanic fixes engines and a plumber, you know, plumbs stuff. By extension, pilots fly planes and painters (either kind) paint. Doctors repair people, veterinarians repair pets, and teachers teach.

I mean, if someone asked me if I was a real cable guy or a real contractor, somewhere in the discussion I would pretty much have to mention that I install cable service or oversee the building of houses. Right? I mean, right?

So based on those obviously wrong-headed definitions, I got the notion in my head that if I was going to call myself a professional writer, I should, you know, actually write.

So that’s what I did. After roughly 50 years of learning my craft, I began calling myself a professional writer on October 19, 2014. (You laugh, but don’t you remember the day you became a [fill in the blank]? If not, check in with yourself. Maybe you’re in the wrong career.)

And since October 19, 2014, I have written 717,024 words of published fiction. Almost three quarters of a million words of published fiction.

How did I do that? By setting a goal and striving to reach it. I often failed. My goal was to write 3,000 words of fiction per day. That’s it. Nothing more.

Now there are only 14 days left in the one-year period that began on October 19, 2014 and will end on October 18, 2015 (inclusive).

That means over the past 351 days I have written an average of 2042 words per day.

That means I spent two hours per day doing my job. Two hours per day.

Anyone know a mechanic or a pilot or a doctor or any of those others up there who work a two-hour day?

Okay, so anyway, here I am to confess. This is kind’a like Fake Writers Anonymous. “Hi. I’m Harvey. And I am not a real writer.”

But I’m okay with it. Actually, I don’t have time to be a “real” writer by the definition of the person on Facebook. Writing is not a “travail” of any kind for me, delicious or nasty tasting or anything in between.

Writing is great fun. Seriously, it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And really, I guess you DON’T have to keep your clothes on either.

Please, don’t be a “real” writer. Instead, sit down at the keyboard, put your fingers on the keys, and write whatever comes. Trust your subconscious. It’s been telling stories since before you knew there even was an alphabet.

Hey, it worked for Bradbury. It worked for Dean Smith.

It works for me.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

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13 thoughts on “Are You a “Real” Writer? (Humor)

  1. Oh, yeah, I’ve heard this one time and again. Why do people think, to be a “real” writer, you have to hate writing and be miserable when “working”? I talk to writers who spend HOURS agonizing over one turn of phrase or one sentence. Why? If it conveys what you want, move on! They look at me like I’ve grown a second head when I talk about how fun writing is and how proofing my own books is even fun. Needless to say, I no longer let their doom-and-gloom-and-misery mentality affect how *I* write. The fact they can’t grasp how fun writing can be makes me sad for them actually. They’re really missing out.

    • Yep, that’s the sad part, how much enjoyment they’re missing. I mean, if writing causes them so much anguish, why not find something to do that they enjoy? It’s as if they’re strolling along on a beautiful, sandy beach, but morose music is playing behind them, and they’re delivering a flat, monotone dramatic line: “Ugh, strolling on the beach is SUCH terrible, agonizing drudgery.” Yeah? Well then get over yourself and go do something else. 🙂

  2. I appreciate your candor because that makes me a “real writer” too. I’ve been typing words into my computer which form sentences. Those sentences are going into paragraphs which are turning into a story. Thanks, Harvey for your help and inspiration. Linda

  3. It is silly. I enjoy every minute I spend writing. I get frustrated when other things crowd into my writing time.

  4. Having had a great morning of writing (so far, about 1700 words) I have to say that I had a lot of fun this AM. None of it was painful in the least-more lke a full body massage!

  5. You all are so much luckier than me. I love writing too, but I find it hard to get it right. Let’s say I construct “almost” real life, historic docudrama or semi-fiction. Unless I have verified the plausibility and facts against my skill and conscience, I won’t be done. The willing suspension of disbelief is not enough. My story could have happened in reality, not only in my mind. But when the flow is good, man, I am flying.

    • Luck has nothing to do with it, AnnElise. It’s all about learning to trust your subconscious. You can spend HOURS questioning everything you write with your conscious, critical mind, or you can Just Write and enjoy the process. Visit the Audio Lectures tab on my website and scroll down to Course 12. Read the description. If you follow Heinlein’s Rules (free handout on my Downloads page) and Writing Off Into the Dark, you can write just like the pulp writers wrote. But first you have to get beyond the “story or book as event” stuff and just have fun telling stories. If you try it, you’ll feel blessed. I promise.

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