It has taken me some time before I was able to identify myself as a writer…at least with some comfort. I would squeeze out the word through tense lips at times, but for the most part, it was something I knew I was seeking to attain, but hadn’t quite arrived. I think I was laboring under the restriction that a writer isn’t really a writer until (he) has published a book.
This past week I sent the first 55 pages of one of my projects to a friend who is a writer and publisher. She asked me to include a resume of my accomplishments as a writer. I stumbled all over the place before I finally settled down and faced reality. I am a writer.
- I write this daily blog which is fast approaching 1500 postings.
- I published an epic poem in a grad school magazine in what seems like a hundred years ago.
- I wrote and self-published a short novel in a previous life.
- I have submitted and seen published a good number of articles in magazines over the past 50 years.
- I have published a short piece in a literary journal (The Smoking Poet).
- I have published a piece in the best newspaper in the country, The Martha’s Vineyard Gazette.
If I taxed my memory, I suspect I could come up with other credentials, like writing sermons every week for 36 years. But you get the point. I have not allowed myself to acknowledge that I am a writer. That’s what I do for a living these days, although I’d better get cranking on publishing. I tell people that I write productively, but I don’t publish. It’s time to get that going.
I’ve been studying writing at Brown University for several years in their very fine Continuing Education program. I have taken 3 courses in writing fiction, screenwriting, and blogging. Now I am enrolled in a Short Story course at the Lifelong Learning Collaborative, a very well-respected institute in Providence. And I have been invited into a writer’s group, The Village Writers, in which there are an amazing gathering of accomplished writers, some of whom make their living at the computer/typewriter. (Yes, there are still writers who prefer the typewriter!) I am honored to be selected to join them.
This past week at our twice-monthly gathering one of the members, my writer/publisher friend announced to the group that I am a “really great writer.” It blew me away. That’s what propelled me to write this post about writers…and specifically…me.
It’s one thing to earn the credential. But there are some requirements which exist in order for someone to claim to be a writer:
- The first task of any good writer is to read. You learn about writing by reading work by other writers.
- Writers seldom get anywhere by writing alone. It’s preferable to be a part of a writing community. Thus, the group into which I have been invited.
- Writers should be prepared to be critiqued. Sometimes that is painful. “This is a lousy piece. Either revise it or throw it away.” Thankfully, my group is more charitable, but frank. There is a written list of “rules” for the group, the first of which is “check your ego at the door.” Good advice.
- Writers should try to establish a schedule for writing to which they adhere. I find that I work best in the morning, so my goal is to establish the hours of 7:00 to noon as my daily writing time. That will be more attainable when our office/family room is finished being remodeled. It’s hard to work on the dining room table across from my wife, who is also doing a huge amount of writing these days. We both tend to talk out loud to the computer.
There is a myriad of other standards which apply to writers, and some authors do just fine with their own standards or lack thereof. Writers, like artists and musicians, are independent cusses. They find their own cubbyholes from which to write, and do quite well with their own practices.
I think of myself as a novice in this field, and by some standards, I am. But the reality is that I have been writing for decades. Someplace in my boxes in the storage area I have a little piece of paper on which I wrote my first poem when I was 6 years old. My mother kept it all these years, and before she died she made sure I had it.
“There was a little bunny who went hop, hop, hop/And when he did his bunny ears went flop, flop, flop.”
Not bad for a 6 year old, is it? Even got the meter right.
Graphic Credit: SEMrush.com