…a writer? This is the eternal philosophical debate taking place in writing groups and creative circles everywhere. What is the definition of a writer? Does simply putting words on paper count? If so, is everyone a writer?
Having tried to make my living with words all of my life, I tend to believe that most people fall somewhere along a continuum between hobbyist and artisan. Practicing writers and working writers, if you will. In my opinion, however, ‘writer’ has become a generic label, all too commonly used to describe anyone who attempts to communicate with the written word.
Writing is an artistic craft. Good writing, quality writing, requires both inspiration and effort. It can be learned, and with hard work and study, it can be mastered. It is also a craft with many disciplines, each of them requiring a specific skill set beyond the basic understandings of vocabulary, grammar, and language usage. I am reminded here…jack of all trades, master of none…
I think most people will agree with me, up to this point. It is here, when the the discussion enters the realm of artistic gift, that egos bristle and the banter heats up. Everyone wants to gifted…and, I believe everyone is…just not necessarily gifted as writers.
What sort of writer am I? Well, I realized that I was born a writer in the third grade. I knew this when my teacher, who was taken aback by a creative essay I had written, told my mother he was sure I couldn’t have written it–at least not without help. The writing was just too sophisticated for someone my age, and the idea–well, it couldn’t possibly be original. But I had written it, and it was my own idea. I was insulted. So was my mother. I was also secretly overjoyed, because even at the age of 8, I understood that if my teacher could not accept that the work was mine, it was because it was good.
This was a defining moment for me, and for my family. I had discovered who I was, and that I had a natural talent for something. It was understood from that moment forward that creative expression through language was an integral part of my existence, of my unique human experience. It was never questioned, and was always encouraged. And I have worked hard at mastering it ever since.
Writing is a function of who I am. I write because I must. I simply must. I am compelled to illustrate, illuminate, and espouse–wielding the word to express my thoughts and ideas. I am romantically involved with language–how it looks, how it sounds, how it feels. I revel in the architecture of an expertly constructed sentence. I gasp at the emotion evoked by an unexpected but intentionally selected word. I marvel at the beauty of a carefully sculpted scene, and dance to the rhythms of artfully composed prose. To me, language is the ultimate poetic expression.
“The role of the writer is not to say what we all can say, but to say what we are unable to say.”–Anaiis Nin. This is my favorite writing quote, because it sums up my personal calling. For me, writing is as essential as breathing…as inescapable as the body to which I was born.
I write, therefore, I am. Period.