Saturday, December 29, 2012

Do You Call Yourself a Writer?

You Don’t Need Anyone’s Permission 
By Kathleen Kaska (Your Fifth Saturday Blogger)

            When people ask you what you do for a living and you answer, “I’m a writer,” how do those words make you feel: proud, shy, boastful, tentative?
            I feel all of the above in a split second after I give my answer. Even twenty years after publishing my first article and three years after retiring from teaching to write full time, I still experience a moment’s hesitation and my answer sounds something like, “Er . . .  I’m a . . . writer.” I can’t help anticipate that look on the curious person’s face, that look that says, “Yeah, right. You’re a writer; I’m a writer; everyone and his dog is a writer. So?” The anticipation of that look, that answer, often has me stammering.
            Then a few days ago, I read Roy Peter Clark’s article in the Seattle Times, “Change Your Idea of Who’s a Writer.” Clark is a writing teacher at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. He has written several books about writing including Help! For Writers. I have so many How-To writing books on my shelf, one really has to grab me before I purchase it. After Clark summarized his book, I added it to my must-read list. Here’s Clark’s take on being a writer. I hope he forgives me adding my own twist in a three-part nutshell.
1.  It’s Not All About Me
            Clark reminded me of an important lesson I learned all those years ago when I decided to become a writer. Writing is not always a solitary endeavor and in order to grow and learn, it is important to utilize the “spirit of a writing community.” I had to learn to think and act like a writer so I joined the local writer’s league, signed up for classes, and joined critique groups. Writers have to be willing to accept help when they need it, but assist others who ask. And when we respect others written expression, that respect comes back to us.
2.  It’s All About Me:
            Clark writes that writers do not need permission or approval to be writers. The act of writing makes us a writer. Writing does not necessarily mean pounding out words on our laptops. Pondering and contemplating the ideas and emotions we eventually weave into our stories makes us writers. I get my best ideas when I’m jogging or hiking the forest trails near my house. It’s easier for my characters to get my attention when I’m letting my mind wonder. This solitary time also allows me to work through plotting issues, create new characters, and polish dialogue. So, when I’m by myself on the trail in the woods and having a conversation with the invisible, I’m writing.
3.  It’s All About a Better Me
            And here’s a point I never really considered. Clark writes that the act of writing makes us better individuals; it makes us more attuned to the world around us and empathetic to others.
            So, if we write, contemplate writing, ask for help when we need it and give help in return, and cultivate our craft, we are writers.
            I was always taught not to toot my own horn. I now realize if my tooting results in a pleasant melody and not a loud bugle call, it's perfectly fine. I don't usually make New Year's resolutions. I tend to obsess with daily goal-making, so I pass on that annual proclamation to improve myself. But this year, I think I'll make an exception. When asked what I do for a living, I'll look that person in the eye and say, "I'm a writer," and feel proud of my answer.

I write the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Mystery Triviography Mystery Series.


Morgan Mandel said...

Great points!
It's not often easy to be a writer, but it's addictive. At times I think about stopping, but something inside forces me to carry on!

Morgan Mandel

Kathleen Kaska said...

I know what you mean, Morgan. Writing is work; sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's surprisingly easy and sometimes it's frustrating, but the need to put works on the screen is always there.

Kaye George said...

It took me a long time to get used to telling people this. At first I forced myself to. Now, when I do, I usually get some interest and end up handing out a bookmark or two. That's fun!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Good post. I always think of myself as a writer, don't go around telling everyone, but I do have a magnet on the back of my car with my website and people ask about it. I always have cards to hand out. I spend most of my time writing or promoting.

Kathleen Kaska said...

It does get easier the more you say it. I wear a wrist band that has the phrase "A writer writes . . . always." written on it. A lot of folks ask me about it, giving me an opportunity to do a little promoting.
Thanks for your comment, Marilyn.

Mas Rooy said...

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Fill in really good article I really like the articles on this blog.

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