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How can I call myself a writer…

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Nimue, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    As far as inner critic and creative voice goes, I think we all have to walk the line between "my shit doesn't stink" and "maybe this person has a valid point". :D
     
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  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    If your editor never tells you anything but, "You suck!" then, yeah. The reaction might be to never put a word on the page again if you are entirely incapable of writing good prose.

    If your editor sometimes tells you, "This sucks!" then sometimes it's right. The sentence does suck. And maybe it should be rewritten on the spot or sometimes you can come back to that passage later and write it later. This might slow your output, but does that matter?

    GRRM asked Stephen King:

    “You don’t ever have a day where you sit down there and it’s like constipation - you write a sentence and you hate the sentence and you check your email and you wonder if you had any talent after all and maybe you should have been a plumber? Don’t you have days like that?” (link, language warning at the very first as GRRM starts by saying F!)​

    Stephen King had already said he tries to get 6 fairly clean pages a day. So he answered, no. But he did say that of course there are distractions sometimes, real life things needing to be done.

    You'd already used GRRM as an example, heh....

    —sarcasm.

    Maybe you meant that of course GRRM's a writer, but he's just not a very good one sometimes; he's not doing what he should be doing and cranking out a few hours' worth of words he'll mostly throw away. And maybe that's correct, he's not always "being" a "good" writer even though on the whole he's done just fine. :D

    Reading comments about cranking out 1K+ words a day regardless of circumstance, getting those 30K+ words a month, with the suggestion that this describes doing it right (if you want to be a writer).....Well, I think it's great advice if the heart of the advice is taken. The "block" in writer's block is often far worse in those very opening moments. I think this might be related to the way irrational fear and worry can keep us from doing something that, it so turns out, was not something to be feared. But I do worry that the advice can come across as condemnation or confirmation of one's own inherent ineptitude as a writer.

    Maybe my own personal experience colors my view. In my twenties, I'd pretty much stopped reading and writing fiction and focused on reading poetry and essays while working on a career in business (and extracurricular activities, lol.) I began to delve into poetry for my writing. And no poet for long entertains the idea of making a living through poetry. I've always turned to other avenues for my livelihood. For my life now, there's no great need to worry about earning a living writing fiction—although the older I get, the nearer to retirement I get, it's something that's beginning to loom as an impetus, heh. So if I go a day or two or more without writing much, I don't feel the sting of failure as strongly as I might. There's a bit of a sting. But I'm not worried so much about whether I am or am not a writer; then again, I've long since been exhausted by various labels and trying to live up to them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
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  3. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    @Nimue, I'm diagnosing perfectionism as the root cause of your troubles. Now, the good news is that this is curable. But I'm going to go against the grain here and mention these last few points:

    -if you want to write, then you need to knock off the perfectionism. Period.
    -this can be done the same way you undo a habit, by consistent effort towards freeing your inner Nimue voice.
    -only you can decide if writing is worthwhile to you or not. If it isn't, then screw this mess and don't torture yourself any longer. If it is, put the brakes down and devote yourself to the craft. I'm always here if you need me, either today, tomorrow, or next year. If you need someone to help you with this, come to me. I'm waiting. :)

    **In the famous words of Yoda the master: "Do. Or do not. There is no try."
     
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  4. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    FV... what I meant was that Nim posted a very specific checklist of what she believes makes a 'writer'. I was saying that by those standards, some very popular writers must not be writers then... because they certainly don't meet those standards.

    What I find interesting about this discussion is that there seems to be two viewpoints that "seem" similar, but are vastly different.

    1) I am, therefor I write.

    In which, a person believes themselves, deep down, to be a writer, even though they perhaps don't always produce work, or don't stick to a schedule, or don't have anything published. They know, in their heart that writing is how they express themselves even though they don't do it every day (or even every year).

    2) I write, therefor I am.

    In which a person does not believe themselves a writer unless they are achieving a specific goal/output. It is the writing that makes them a writer, not the other way around.

    I find the debate to be fascinating.
     
  5. I agree with Chessie, if you want to be a productive, creative writer you need to accept that the first couple of drafts will always be, to an extent, crap. That goes for all of us, its just the way writers work, we have to just dump stuff from our minds onto the page so we have something to work with. Then begins the process of trying to make articulate, precise words make sense and line up with what we feel. Basically putting wordless instinct and emotion into words: communication. Some people can do that a lot quicker than others, but the first few drafts are only for us, because they are clunky, inconsistent, imprecise = not effective communication. That's just how we work.
     
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  6. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Actually, that's not what I said at all! I...do not believe the first draft of anything needs to suck super hard if you're continually improving in skill. I write one draft, no rewrite. Do I fix mistakes? Yes. Do I clean things up to make the narrative flow more smoothly? Yes. But the finished product remains in the o.g. draft unless I do a complete redraft. That's just how I work though, to each their own. Yeah...that's not what I was saying at all. lol.
     
  7. Although for a good percentage of writers, it is true.
     
  8. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    How would you or anyone know that? From beginning writers to professionals, everyone is going to have different habits, and I suspect that it may be true for a certain demographic of writers vs others. So no, it isn't true as a generalism, and entirely unscientific.
     
  9. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    I love this. Descartes would be proud.

    Based on his quote, we could conjecture that he'd go with number 2) above. Action/perception gives reason for definition. There's a reason Descartes didn't say, "I am, therefore I think."
     
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  10. No I should have clarified, sorry. I meant I agree with you that in this case it is partly about perfectionism, which is something that can get in the way of productive writing. I should have specified that I was moving onto my own points. Yeah I can see I phrased that badly now.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    @Helio:

    That is an interesting question.

    GRRM might never complete another book. He might not be writing today, for all I know. But he will forever be known as a writer because he has completed books and stories already and many people have read those. He's also made a lot of money from his writing.

    I think that worrying about whether one fits the label Writer, for oneself or in the eyes of others, is different than worrying about finishing a novel, getting it published (or self-published), and having a stranger read it.

    The latter seems to me to be a matter of practicality. You just do it. The novel's not going to finish itself. Push through, whatever. The former might be self-evident if you are accomplishing the latter; but if you haven't yet finished that novel and aren't doing anything whatsoever to advance that goal? What good is the question of one's status as "writer" in that case? I.e., why worry over it? (Not saying anything of this describes Nimue; I'm being general here.)

    Maybe different individuals have different concerns. I'm not judging a person either way; I only suspect that self-satisfaction will depend on a personal goal and metrics fitting that goal....

    And part of those metrics might be some sort of time limit, different for different people.

    OTOH, is being known as a Writer more important than actually writing a novel? This reminds me of those side-character introductions in movies:

    (At a party.)

    Barb: Who's that?

    Mary: Peter. He's all right.

    Barb: What's he do?

    Mary: He's a writer.

    Barb: Oh? What's he written?

    Mary: Nothing.

    Barb (confused): ?

    Mary: He said he's a writer, when I asked once. He tells everyone he's a writer. He's currently working at Pizza Hut. Has a novel he's working on, he said, something with dragons. Spent about four years on it, already. Gonna be great.

    Barb: Oh. (Silently thinks for a moment.) He's hot.

    Mary: Especially when he's baking pizzas.

    Barb: ?

    Mary: Yeah...he's all right. ​

    —but from this overheard conversation, we don't know Peter's entire life history, heh. Mary might not be a reliable witness.
     
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  12. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Descartes would also argue that the very fact that Nimue doubts her being a "writer" shows that she is a writer. If she really were not a writer then she would never be bothered to doubt it. Instead, she would continue on doing whatever non-writerly things she would do, doubting herself in those things instead.
     
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  13. oenanthe

    oenanthe Minstrel

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    Well, you could ask, if you're really curious. I suspect DragonOfTheAerie is correct in believing that a good percent of writers do revisions.
     
  14. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I disagree. Writers write. Nimue's case aside. You can't say you're something and then not do it. So what I'm saying is, I lean towards "I want to be, therefore I do". If someone wants to be a writer, then they need to write. They can't say they are if they don't do. I think that's what Nimue is struggling with here, if I understand her well.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2017
  15. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Revisions are one thing. Rewrites are another. It's also not a good idea to paint everyone with a broad stroke, as so often happens around here.
     
  16. oenanthe

    oenanthe Minstrel

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    What's the difference, if you were to define it?
     
  17. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Yes. And dancers dance.

    I never doubt my ability as a dancer because I know I'm not one.

    Do I doubt my ability as a writer? Of course. A few measily poems does not a professional writer make. But do I still consider myself a writer? Yes. Will I still continue to write (as I can) until I die? I hope so. Will I ever have anything published? Probably not. But I still consider myself a writer. (Though, to be fair, I would never introduce myself as such at a party like FV's example lol).

    But what do I want to do? Obviously write. That's why I'm here with all of you.

    Or else, are we saying that most of the people on this site are not writers?
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
  18. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Perhaps it comes down to personal definition. When people ask what I do, I tell them I'm a writer, because I do this everyday for hours. If someone were to ask you what you do, you say that wouldn't be your response. Then you say that yes, you're a writer. So maybe it has more to do with our personal definition of the word. I have no idea. All I know is that Nimue is rather unsatisfied where she is because she yearns for more, but that's entirely up to her to figure out.

    As for the rewrite/redraft question, a topic for another thread but the short of it is, imo, redraft is starting fresh without help from the original manuscript, vs rewrite is shifting parts around, writing new prose, deleting parts, etc.
     
  19. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I think so. If someone asked what I 'did' I would usually respond with "teacher" because that is my profession. But then does that not make me a mother? Because that wasn't my response at a party? I don't think so. I'm also a mother, a writer, a cyclist, a triathlete, an adventure racer, a Search and Rescue Volunteer...

    Definitely not a dancer. Or a sumo wrestler. lol.
     
  20. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Why do I find this so hot? ;)

    I get it. No one would have doubts about being something they know they aren't. The doubt comes from something deep in the person's soul, not a superficial desire. And because it comes from deep in the soul, it will drive the person to action, despite the doubts.

    Until the action occurs and the person writes, they are not a writer. They're an aspiring writer. But Nimue has written, so that stage is already passed.
     
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