Thursday, September 08, 2011

Are you a writer? Sheesh!

I found this quote floating around facebook:
If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

Does this tick anybody else off? Why is it artists (or should I say "ar-tee-sts" should be insecure, sensitive ninnies in order to be real? And yet, I see this stereotype (and others like it) from many different sources.

Insecurity and fear do not make a person a writer. Would a architect be scared to death of their craft? Would a scientist go to their friends and ask, "Am I really a scientist?" Why, then, are writers and artists lumped into this neurosis of self-doubt?

Insecurity and fear don't make you a better writer, either. Obviously, hubris is not a good thing, yet there are plenty of writers who have succumbed to that and yet are still writers. However, confidence is definitely a necessary requirement for the writing craft. How else would we ever submit something or even write a blog if we didn't think we were good enough to get read? In fact, the better writers have a lot of self-confidence. What else enables them to accept rejection, shrug it off and move on?

I'm not saying writers are all egoists or that we aren't afraid of making the grade. I have a friend who is an excellent writer. Before meeting with a big NYC agent (who recruited her, no less) she told me that she felt like her story was too stupid to discuss, but that she always felt that way about her stories before they were done. Did she doubt her identity as a writer? Of course not. Even more, she may have had doubts about the story, but they did not paralyze her. She sought his feedback on the story. In the meantime, she WROTE and rewrote and submitted and published and taught writing. That's what writers do when faced with a story or article or book that intimidates them--they write; they edit; they learn what they need to learn. They WORK to be worthy of the story. They don't go around asking their friends for meaningless affirmations.

What's it take to be a writer then? The ability to tell a story. A basic grasp of grammar and story structure. A willingness to learn. Most of all, the dedication to put words on paper and the bravery to send those words to someone else to publish or the gumption to put the real effort into publishing them yourself.

If you find yourself wasting time stressing about whether you are "really a writer" and not writing your stories/books/articles, editing them, getting crits, and submitting them, then you are not a writer. Go find something else that gives you a feeling of identity. And clear the field for those of us who know what we are.


Donelle Lacy said...

Argh! So much agreement here, Karina! This ticks me off to hear stuff like this too! I don't understand why some people believe artists/writers have to be sniveling cowards or limp-wristed ninnies. In my experience, the people who go around having to ask people if they are really writers/artists are only wannabes. They surround themselves with yes-men and shrink from real crits, real growth. They remain stunted in their craft because they don't want to improve. They just want to be good enough to have fans that shower them with praise and encouragement. They like being big fish in small ponds.

Now, with that out of my system, you're right. Being a writer has to do with ability. But it also has to do with passion. You have to believe so strongly in what you do that it becomes a calling. You feel that you were born to do this, and that you couldn't go a day without some form of it in your life.

This is what keeps writers and artists going. We might get rejections, and people might hate our work or give bad critiques, but we simply can't stop! It's in our blood, it's in our souls. Our art/craft is like a cart. Sometimes we ride, but when it breaks down, we'll push it until it takes us where we want to go.

Karina Fabian said...

Donelle, don't hold back--tell us how you really feel! LOL But yes-the noble thing about writers is that they are driven, and do believe strongly in their craft--strongly enough to take chances, and strongly enough to improve. I worry that the ease of publishing has made a lot of folks forget that.

Thanks so much for taking time to comment today.

Antonella said...

I recently joined CWG and I feel like a fish out of water. The ease of publishing? Is it actually easy to publish? And the technical language that members speak in the Chat Room...I hardly understand a word! I've worked as a painter all my life, and I feel about painting like you ladies feel about writing. But, as I tried to explain on my blog, when it comes to writing I never know if I'll be able to write another day. And yet I find it more fulfilling than painting, although much more stressing. My first language is Italian, so I never know if I'm doing a good job in English. So no, I don't know if I'm a writer yet, and I would really appreciate some feed-back on my blog.
Thank you for your time,

Karina Fabian said...

Hi, Antonella,

First off, there's a difference between asking for feedback on your work and going around asking your friends, "Am I a writer?"

You are writing a blog. You have joined the Guild to learn more about the business. You are a writer. And not because I say you are, but because *you are writing*, even when you aren't feeling sure of yourself.

Sadly, as most bloggers will tell you, getting comments on your blog is a gamble. I've been blogging for four years and I seldom get one, much less two comments on my blog. It seems to me the blogs that do get the most comments are the opinionated ones, the controversial ones, or the ones from people who are already well known for a reason or another. So don't feel lack of commentary is any reflection on your ability.

As for the terminology of the business--that's what the CWG chat is for: for people to learn about writing and faith. (Tell you a not-so-secret secret. Half the time people are talking about some aspect of our faith or faith community, I lay low because I don't know anything about it!) So ask questions.

I'd also like to recommend the MuseOnline conference, a free conference coming in October. It's free and runs through chats like ours and forums. I'm going to teach at it, and there are a ton of wonderful workshops you can take. course, we'll have the Catholic Writers Conference Online in March, too.

Blessings and thanks for commenting!