Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What It Means to be a Writer

by Morgan Smith
There’s a great chance that many of you reading this write and aspire to be writers, but don’t call yourself a writer. That was the case for me, a senior in the creative writing department, before taking this course. While in this class, I’ve been introduced to a new way of thinking about writing and a new definition of a writer, and as it turns out, I am one. I only have one publication to my name and no one knows who I am, but I am a writer.

The awful truth.
An important thing I’ve learned is that if you have any romantic notions of what being a writer is, get rid of them. I don’t want to be a dream killer, just a realism pusher. The odds are that you will be rejected more than accepted and you’ll never make a good living solely on publishing books, if that is the medium you choose, but that’s okay. Chances are, the same writers you love to read had their own fair share of rejections. If you know that next to no one, if not no one, is going to read what you are writing, but you have to write it anyway, you’re a writer. Keep doing it, but keep in mind:
You’re not the next J.K. Rowling.
You aren’t going to make a million dollars off your book.
You won’t get a movie option.
 In 100 years, people won’t be studying your work.
You won’t be the greatest writer that ever lived.
You might never have an idea that hasn’t already been written.

So why try? Why take a noveling class when the future is so bleak? That is simple. You can get better. It is true that you can write and submit without a degree, I considered it myself, but no one ever became great at something without studying and practicing their craft. That is why I took this class and that is why I am excited to be taking it again.

If I had just a penny for every person who ever said, “I should write a book” or just thought about it, but didn’t, I would be rich. That’s another advantage of this class; you finally have a reason to do it. I may only be twenty-three, but I have wanted to write a novel since I first read To Kill A Mockingbird more than a decade ago. Since then, I’ve written poems, essays, flash fictions, short stories, and jotted down ideas for that infamous first book we all want to write… eventually.  Now I’m doing it.

What’s been better than finally starting it has been accepting the fact that it is going to be bad. It sounds insane, but it’s freeing. It will be a bad first draft, a bad second draft, a bad third, and probably more, but it will get better. Writing a novel is a different process for everyone, but the thing that is important to learn is that it is a process and the first step is to just get it out. I’ve been encouraged in this class to not edit and that was a completely foreign concept to me. I am the kind of writer that edits word by word of every sentence as I go, and then does it again. In this class, that wasn’t an option. You are forced to keep moving and expand your ideas, get all your thoughts on the page and edit it later. Now for some, it’s possible to get an entire novel on the page in a semester, but not most which is why I am taking the class again so that I can keep working on it. I knew when I signed up to draft a novel in a semester that I was going to panic a few times, and I will next semester as well, but it has been worth it. I’ve started my novel, I feel like a writer, and I’ve learned more about writing in this one semester than in the last 3 years of college. The best advice I can give you is to hone your craft. If you want to be good at it, study it.

[Editor's Note:  Tune in tomorrow for two opposing blog posts: Miranda Wuestefeld on planning a novel and Jennifer Perov on why she doesn't plan extensively.  - Lauren Burch]

1 comment:

  1. "Realism pusher" is a great term.

    I love the list you've set out about what most people won't achieve as writers. Perhaps strangely, given that my goal in life has always been to be a best-selling author, I actually found that list much more freeing than dream killing. People try to create the next great work of literature when they write, and there's no way they'll live up to their own standards, especially on a first draft. If your goal is "write a story" rather than "write a masterpiece," I think your chances of success are much higher.