A friend, discouraged and feeling pressured to justify her writing time, recently said to me, “Maybe I’m just not a serious writer.”
What does it mean to be a “serious writer,” anyway? Is it about how often one writes? Is it about whether or not one earns a living at writing? Is it about whether or not one is published? Or, is it simply tied to one’s ability to self-identify as “writer?”
The question of how serious she is can only be answered by her. I suspect she’s in a place of doubt and disillusionment just now. I suspect her confidence is flagging. I suspect she could use some encouragement from an agent or publisher; or, better yet, a voice from the heavens saying, “The world awaits your stories.” Maybe she just needs a friend to say,”The process – the act of creation – is the only thing that matters. That is the only measure of time well spent. So step into that space wherein you lose yourself in the story and the writing of it. Step into it daily, if you can. Honor your gifts, and write.”
I am a writer. I say it out loud. I am a writer with a sometimes irregular writing practice. I live by the motto: nulla dies sine linea – never a day without a line (Horace); yet, I’ve been known to count my to-do list on a busy day as my line. Though I’ve taught writing, published short stories, essays, and articles, and I’ve been commissioned to write everything from letters to personalized pet poems, I have no income from my written works at the moment. I am focused on writing my first novel with no agent or publisher in sight. Yet, I am a serious writer.
As a serious writer, I read, open myself to new learning opportunities, and stay connected. I read novels, books about writing, and books about writers. I read poetry, pamphlets, and tea bags. I attend workshops, classes, conferences and retreats. I have a circle of writer friends with whom I stay connected. I wander and ponder and day dream. And I write. I put my seat to the seat, and I write.
Actually, I can’t not write. And I know my friend is the same way. She’s been writing most of her life: magnificent stories, delicious poems, and humorous letters. She wants very badly to be published and occasionally submits. She may lack a regular writing schedule. She may have a tendency to write mainly when inspired. But, she’s a writer.
Another friend said to me, “What if you spend a year on a novel and then it doesn’t get published? That’s all that time wasted. How do you justify the time?”
To that, I say: That year will go by anyway. At the end, I will have had the experience of writing a novel, or not.