What Makes You a Writer?
The art of writing to express ideas beyond the level of grocery lists and racing forms has been with us for centuries. From the times of the Egyptian pharaohs, humankind has sought to tell the stories of everyday life as well as heroic epics. At first, these stories were difficult to record, requiring special skills and materials, not to mention wall space. During the Middle Ages, scribes painstakingly copied texts by hand, and almost no one owned copies of any scrolls or early books. Finally, the printing press opened a new door and before long the “common” person was able to purchase a weekly newspaper and even a few books.
Flash forward to the 21st Century and writing is everywhere; in some ways, we’re almost drowning in written information, as well as audio versions of literary works and now e-books and online efforts such as blogs. So what are we to make of the world of writing today? How do we differentiate mundane writing from literary art? Can we consider all writers to be Writers, or must we draw the line somewhere to develop a tighter definition?
I suspect if asked, each of us would give a different answer. I offer a definition limited enough to make our topic wieldy and yet broad enough to encompass the scope of most people’s interests:
To be a Writer is to express one’s unique ideas in written form for the purpose of educating, enlightening and/or entertaining the reader.
This definition covers both fiction and nonfiction – novels and other kinds of books, articles, essays, poetry, and blogs and other online pieces. Business and technical writing are included, as are textbooks (in print and online).
But is this definition totally satisfying? Actually, readers are more likely interested in the arbitrarily-defined form called “Professional Writing.” And by that, they likely mean writing for which one is paid. That is certainly to be included in my definition, but unfortunately many writers are not paid even though they strive toward that goal. Thus, I shall not leave people out of the defined group simply because they have not yet reaped monetary benefit from their efforts.
In this column we’ll talk about writing from beginning to end – the end being a published work, or a finished work that is at least satisfying to the writer. We’ll talk about the process of becoming a good writer, attracting the attention of an agent and/or publisher, and what it means to follow through. We’ll cover marketing, building a platform, developing your brand, the mechanics of the industry, how and whether to self-publish, and other related topics.
The world of writing is a big one. The path you follow will provide opportunity for personal choices along the way, but each decision is usually consequential to your quest. Compromise may or may not be necessary to reach your personal writing goals. The path to becoming a paid and/or accomplished writer is not usually an easy one. If you hope to have any success, you need to be prepared for the hard work, dedication and sacrifice that can be required. Ask yourself these questions:
Why do I want to write and what are my goals?
Do I have a realistic view of what writing will mean to my life?
What are the practical assets I can bring to the process? Such things as time to work, a budget for supplies, and a place to work are all important, as are a sound understanding of writing principles, ideas and an ability to do research.
I hope you will think this over and meet me here next time for more on “The Writer’s Way.”
Linda Bond is cofounder and leader of the Inland Northwest Writers Guild and Outreach Coordinator at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane, WA. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This article was originally published in the North Columbia Monthly magazine in the August 2016 issue. To view the original online version, click here and find article on page 27: