What’s it like to be a real writer? And how do you become one?

What’s it like to be a real writer? By many definitions, I’d have to say “I don’t know.” I don’t have a published book. I’ve written a pair of screenplays, but no one has read them, nor are they particularly worth reading. I don’t write every day, like “real writers” say they do. I’m not disciplined in my approach, I’m not formally trained as a writer, and I don’t make my living solely (or even mostly) via the written word.

Your definition of “real writer” is the key, and that’s why this article isn’t presented as advice. There are too many different styles and methodologies for any one person to be considered the definitive sage. Still, it helps to see the process from different perspectives.

By who’s definition?

In reality, my reality, I do know what it’s like to be a real writer; just not a theoretical “ideal” writer. I’ve been published, in print and online, for more than a decade. I’ve been paid for some it, and not for other parts. I’ve had my own paid column on three different occasions. I’ve written volumes of content for my day job. I think that gives me the justification to say that I’m a “real writer.”

I understand why a lot of writers say that the secret is to write everyday. It makes sense. Practice always helps, and there’s nothing that says you have to show garbage to anyone else. In the real world, however, writing every day isn’t always practical. Some weeks, I’ll write every day, but, other weeks, I’ll only get words down on only two or three days — occasionally none.

I don’t focus on writing every day. I focus on writing.

A disciplined approach works for those than can hold themselves to it. Those of us more scattered need to find a different approach. If you can write every day, and want to, then most certainly do it. If not, you’ve got to find a system that works for you. Unless you’re born with magic writing talent, you’ll need to get through a lot of bad or mediocre writing to get to the good stuff. You need to get words out, one way or another.

It may fall flat. So what?

To me being a real writer involves a lot of time feeling inadequate. I am sometimes happy with what I write, but far more often, I feel like I’ve produced less than my best work. Regardless, a few people do seem to like my writing. They published it, and that helps with motivation a lot. The point is, however, that in order to be a real writer, you need to be willing to look past your disillusionment, past feelings of inadequacy,and past the fear of rejection.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t need to proofread, edit or re-write. Do those things and then ship off the best you’ve got. It may get rejected. It may get accepted. Don’t concern yourself with that detail, other than to the extent that you can learn from it. Inadequacy, and feelings of inadequacy don’t, on their own, hold you back. Failure to submit writing will hold you back.

What’s your point?

It’s also important to define a purpose for writing. In my case, the purpose is to communicate concepts and information. For some, the purpose will be to inspire. Others write to cause fear, and an adrenaline rush. I write simply to communicate.

The trite comparison is: “form over function vs. function over form.” Neither really hold water under close examination. My version of the statement is: “form can not get in the way of function.” Form can add to or detract from communication. Adding to is okay, detracting is not. If you are effectively communicating your message, then your form and function are both adequate.

Once you’ve written and submitted writing, you are a writer. From that point on, it’s just about refining your craft and sticking with it.

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