What does it mean to be a writer? Let’s go to the official source of all words defined:
- aperson engaged in writing books, articles, stories, , especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.
- aclerk, scribe, or the
- aperson who commits his or her thoughts, ideas,, to writing: an expert letter writer.
- (ina piece of writing) the author (used as a circumlocution for “I,” “me,” “my,” ):The writer wishes to state….
- aperson who writes or is able to write: a writer in
A writer was what I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved the process of creating worlds. I loved learning new words. I loved metaphors and analogies, and onomatopoeia, and trying to use creative adjectives to paint a picture of a scene. As I aged, I maintained the child-like excitement and desire to write, but as with so many things, age began to destroy my confidence, and I continually heard the voice of doubt in my head.
You’ll never be a real writer. You’re not good enough.
There was that word. “Real.”
Perhaps this is why I find the definition of the word writer to be so interesting. The definition should certainly tell us what a “real” writer is, should it not?
The first definition is incredibly intimidating. “A person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.” Now I’m picturing Charlotte Brontë, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Woodward and Bernstein.
Definition number two sounds transactional. A clerk or scribe… or the like? That seems vague and non-committal. Still, I think I could do that. I can type, and my handwriting is decent…or almost decent.
Reading definition number three makes me excited again. “A person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing.”
There it is. That’s the definition I’m going to cling to. Somewhere between the lauded professionals and the transactional scribes lies the aspirational. The dreamers. Those of us who write because we love to write. Not for a paycheck, and not to transcribe the ideas of others. For the pure joy of creating something out of nothing and the challenge of the white blank page.
For years, I was never willing to call myself a writer, because of the intimidation of that very first definition. I refused to call myself a “runner” for similar reasons. Even standing at the start line of my third marathon, I felt like I couldn’t compete with the elite runners setting their GPS watches and aiming for sub six-minute miles. For that reason, and that reason alone, I felt I didn’t deserve to adopt the same title as those who stood to earn prize money.
Now I wonder, can’t there be a place in the world for those of us who run just for the love of the wind in our hair and the desire to achieve our own personal best? Isn’t the world big enough for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with the elite runners of the world and breathe the same air? Elite runners certainly don’t frown on those of us who finished behind them. The race supporters, standing for hours holding inspirational signs, certainly cheered just as loudly for us nine-minute milers as the 5-minute milers. In the end, won’t we all run 26.2 miles? I did. But I’m a runner.
Can’t writers borrow a lesson from runners? Sure, we may pay money to purchase the works of the accomplished, but haven’t we all read a blog or two from someone not being compensated for their opinions? If Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway were to stand before us, would they wrap their arms around all of the paper and pens in the world and tell those of us who aren’t formally published that we don’t deserve to write? I don’t think they would. I like to think they would sit down with us and share ideas, and offer suggestions. What did Austen and Hemingway do other than commit their thoughts to writing? Isn’t that what so many of us are trying to do as well?
Can’t we all stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and call ourselves writers, breathing the same air and writing just for the love of creativity and creation?
I like to think so. But I’m a writer.