The Difference Between A Writer And Someone Who Wants Everyone To Think They're Some Romanticized Notion Of "Writer"

A writer is not someone who has the time or motivation to write a multi-paragraph ‘piece’ consisting of long-winded prose which in essence seeks to characterize himself within an exclusive group of one-dimensional, cliche, arbitrary, romanticized human beings. A writer doesn’t see the point in doing that because, most importantly, a writer’s probably experienced or ‘wise’ enough to understand that shaping one’s entire public identity/ outward-facing persona into a sort of deep, meaningful, tangentially-insane but sage-like, pensive genius of a human being is totally inauthentic and, eventually, will turn one into either a really shallow person who judges people on the basis of pretty unreasonable/ elitists constructs, or a really frustrated Ignatius-J.-Reilly-like individual who feels totally alienated by his perceived “stupidity” of others.

In essence, a “real” “writer,” if we were to define that term reasonably – for example, how many books she sold, or how many people think about her/ her work on a daily basis, or how many other “writers” she influenced, or how many people think of her as a “writer” (think: Shakespeare, Goethe, Nietzsche, Tzu, Eliot, O’Connor, Murakami, Sexton, Hemingway, DFW, Plath, Bukowski, and etc.; these people were probably “writers”) – has become a “writer” in part because she’s already moved far past the early identity-formation stages of her life in which her writing is mostly a series of attempts at convincing others that she’s a sought-after-by-tweens-and-emo-Tumblr-girls stereotype (one would think so, at least). Instead, she understands that humans are just a little bit less angular and a little bit more multi-dimensional than that, and as such is able to write meaningful, connective, non-exclusive stuff that, you know, people actually want to read.

I think a “writer” – one like those mentioned above – would feel totally embarrassed to write that his mind is “sticky and cavernous,” that his mind is a “locus of constant invention and generation, but also of deconstruction and warfare,” because – you know who else’s mind is like that? A baby’s! Or: the Unabomber’s! Or anyone else’s, really, because that description is totally meaningless, and “successful” “writers” don’t waste words on meaningless, alliterative jazz. Writers communicate with readers, they don’t exclude them. It’s those that want everyone to think they’re some romanticized notion of “writer” who go up for metaphysical high-fives with every ego-referential, self-loving sentence.

A “writer” is a novelist, a freelancer, a copywriter, a technical writer, a poet, a journalist, a blogger. A writer wrote the small print on the back of your Colgate and got paid an annual salary of $75,000 a year doing just that, and he’s been doing it for 20 years. A writer’s a content slave who works from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. every night for a shitty salary of $32,000 a year. A writer is a prolific, productive freelancer who doggedly emails pitches, works with editors, figures out the perfect way to write successful, non-confrontational emails that are in essence confrontational and pushy, and propagates his byline all day, every day. A writer is a poet who’s always writing, submitting, networking, and editing. A writer is a blogger that lives on minimum wage (when her skill set could make her much, much more) because she wants the freedom to write all day and get paid for it. If anyone’s a “writer” – someone who efficiently, successfully, and consistently turns ideas into writing that influences a significant amount of people on a daily basis – it’s these here mentioned.

A “writer” writes for Facebook shares, retweets and hits. A writer writes for sales. Inaccessible writing that requires an English degree to “understand” or “appreciate” is as meaningful as its reach, and if authors with wide reaches (who write prose that can be read by people without English degrees) are disqualified from being “writers,” it follows that just about every single author who’s penned a “classic” is not a writer, but “someone who writes.” See: Shakespeare. See: Woolf. See: Bukowski. See: Hemingway. See: Plath. See: Miller. See: Shelly. See: DeLillo. See: Klosterman. See: Carver. See: Camus. See: Didion. See: McCarthy. See: Wilde. See: Byron. See: Dickens. See: Sartre. See: Yates. See: O’Connor. See: Aurelius. See: Pessoa. See: Salinger. See: Foster Wallace. See: de Beauvoir. See: Sedaris. See: Vonnegut. See: the Brontes. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Writers do write “from a place of common experience in a common language,” and their work is widely accessible to the “mass market consumer.” All these writers have enriched/ changed millions (billions?) of lives with meaningful, accessible prose in “a common language.”

A writer is nothing. A writer is no one. A writer is a human being who makes a living by successfully communicating ideas on paper/ on screen and/ or moves her readers into emotional states with her words, nothing more. A writer is not a romanticized notion of a “writer;” a romanticized notion of a “writer” is a construct, and I don’t feel like generalizing those that hold that construct true any more than I already have.

Finally, a writer doesn’t write an article that essentially delineates himself as a “writer” by offering as evidence a multi-paragraph stream of exclusionary alliteration probably-unintentionally balanced with enough haughtiness and surface-level-literary-seeming-ness via corpse/decay metaphors (or whatever) for the purpose of striking that fine chord in which one receives a relatively large amount of Facebook shares, retweets and hits (i.e. becomes “mass-market) while saying that a “writer” is not someone who does that, because writers generally try to avoid premise-level contradictions. Writers do, however, fail at avoiding them sometimes. But on the off-chance all that’s here defined as “not a writer” is actually “a writer,” then count this human being out of the “writer” club, because he definitely, definitely, definitely, definitely doesn’t want in. TC mark

image – Simon Fieldhouse

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  • Jennifer

    THANK YOU, Brandon Scott Gorrell.  THANK YOU.

    • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

      Fuck yes. Another thank you from me. 

  • sam

    dang….. cool

  • S.H

    This is probably a really avant-garde concept and all, but how about we just let people BE what they want to BE?

    • http://twitter.com/buytoiletpaper Meaghan S

      that’s what I asked the guys who teamed the last space shuttle, but they wouldn’t let me on because I didn’t have the right qualifications. but goddamnit, I WANT to BE an astronaut.

      • Sippycup

        You can still be an astronaut. All you need is a few million dollars and the ruskies will be glad to take you up. 

    • http://twitter.com/buytoiletpaper Meaghan S

      that’s what I asked the guys who teamed the last space shuttle, but they wouldn’t let me on because I didn’t have the right qualifications. but goddamnit, I WANT to BE an astronaut.

  • Eliot Rose

    Well played.  I’m glad my post got you all hot and bothered enough to write something really good.   Let’s keep the dialogue rolling.  That’s what it’s all about.

    • Jennifer

       Um…

      • Eliot Rose

        Did I say something confusing?  I mean that.  I’m still sort of shocked that my post elicited the reaction it did, but I’d rather get a strong response than none at all.  It was a thought exercise, written in the voice of one kind of writer, and it’s always interesting for me to see how many people missed the lesson about not confusing authors with narrators.  The narrator of my post is into her own writing, true.  I’m still working on mine.  I’m going to have to write something goofy about kittens crawling into hamster balls next time (which I can totally get behind, by the way), so you don’t think I’m some pretentious jerk.  ;o)

      • Your local cop

        i can’t relate to your personality/writing

      • internetstranger

        If you want to claim that your piece was composed by a fictional narrator for the purpose of a “thought exercise,” that’s fine, but you don’t get to turn around and go, “Ha! Wasn’t that narrator I invented crazy? Just kidding, I’m totally on y’alls side, go Team Us” as it feels a lot like backpedaling while trying to save face.

      • Eliot Rose

        That’s fine.  You don’t have to believe me.  And why should you?  I’ll admit it: I’ve always got my fingers crossed behind my back. 

        BSG’s piece sort of proves my point, though.  All of these passionate commentors will swear up and down that his is the better piece.  Awesome.  But if we want to have a dick-measuring contest with our Facebook shares, you’ll see that the “lowest common denominator” (calm down, just a reference to a tag that one of the editors attached to my piece) felt more compelled to share mine.  It’s not what I was after, but it’s what happened.  Interestingly enough, the TC piece of mine of which I am most proud, “A Love Letter From My Hands To Yours” (written in the voice of a narrator for realz!), has gotten the least share/like/tweet traction.  And the worst one, “An Open Letter From Girls Like Me To Guys Like You,” has been shared over 700 times and is all over Tumblers and blogs and what have you.  It’s all very cyclical and interesting and I’m enjoying watching this all unfold.

      • Eliot Rose

        Tumblrs*

      • kristina

        “You don’t have to believe me.  And why should you?  I’ll admit it: I’ve always got my fingers crossed behind my back.”

        Even your comments are mind-numbingly stupid and irritating. 

        Oh, and a writer knows that “commentors” is not a word. Even “someone who writes” know how to spellcheck.  

      • Woyzeck

        You can’t really get away with claiming that you weren’t writing in your own voice if you simultaneously claim that people “missed the lesson”. Thought Catalog doesn’t tend to publish fiction; you either meant it or you didn’t.

        I can’t relate to your personality/writing either, and trying to disown your own work while simultaneously claiming that people just don’t get it alienates me further. If we “missed the lesson” it’s because of your failure to convey it. If you’re eliciting a “strong response” it’s because it came across as arrogant self-congratulation. Sorry Eliot, but if you’re going to write an article like that you should at least have the hamster balls to stand behind it.

      • Anonymous

        ” it’s always interesting for me to see how many people missed the lesson about not confusing authors with narrators.”

        Sure, that’s true in fiction and poetry and some experimental non-fiction. But when you write an expository piece philosophizing on what it means to be a writer, people will generally assume that the voice and the views it espouses are your own.

      • Oliver Miller

        But if you start doing kitten videos what the fuck will I write about when I’m feeling totally uninspired?

      • skylar

        I would find this more amusing if it weren’t so goddamn true

    • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

      It’s not a dialogue. That rebuttal ended the conversation. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      I’m hot and bothered by this post. 

      #blueballs

    • Anonymous

      content of either article aside, this was a level-headed and classy response. well done. 

  • http://twitter.com/godworm Nicholas Cox

    I’m guessing you’ve never actually read Nietzsche.

    • Miles

      bad guess

  • J.

    this is the best thing i’ve read on here in a while.

  • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

    Thank you. I feel better now.

  • GhostlyDandelion

    …and then I got bored and stopped reading.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    yes! this is too good

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

    basically, don’t be an asshole.

    if you don’t know how to not be an asshole, you’re probably an asshole.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      no

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

        asshole

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=825630453 Lauren Doster Magruder

    I felt like I was going to have an anxiety attack reading this, maybe I don’t like confrontation. But I do agree with the point you made. 

  • Anonymous

    Bold move, Battle Star Galactica.

  • http://twitter.com/brooklyknight David Trahan

    So, no one who writes on Thought Catalog, including myself, is a writer.

  • Guest

    DFW’s last name is Wallace, not Foster Wallace.  A writer is a pedant, goddammit!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=539592740 Viktoriya Gaponski

    Why is everyone so afraid of cliches? It’s so cliche.

  • chel

    oh god I love rebuttals 

  • Emma

    Thank you for this, the piece to which this is a response made me feel horrible for writing a bunch of copy at a magazine internship instead of the next great novel. 

    • hoffman.519

      Gotta’ pay them bills. No guilt there.

    • http://eccentricerrant.wordpress.com/ Alexandrea

      You’re not alone. That other article made me feel bad about being an EFL instruction materials writer, even though I work my ass off every single weekday, trying to come up with creative ways to make adult learners comprehend the differences between gerunds and participles (among other grammar rules) without boring their brains out. But at the end of the day, I love my job and I’m good at it. I do wish I were writing the next Pulitzer-prize winning novel but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to be called a writer. Like a previous commenter said, it’s a job, an occupation, not some elusive title that only the elite can carry.

  • http://twitter.com/zeolitefuhrman Zeolite Fuhrman

    You should totally delete her post.

    • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ STaugustine

      Before deleting his own: a Literary murder-suicide!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=300901223 Nicolette Beach

    “Finally, a writer doesn’t write an article that essentially delineates
    himself as a “writer” by offering as evidence a multi-paragraph stream
    of exclusionary alliteration probably-unintentionally balanced with
    enough haughtiness and surface-level-literary-seeming-ness via
    corpse/decay metaphors (or whatever) so for the purpose of striking that
    fine chord in which one receives a relatively large amount of Facebook
    shares, retweets and hits (i.e. becomes “mass-market) while saying that a
    “writer” is not someone who does that, because writers generally try to
    avoid premise-level contradictions.”

    Does a writer know how to write concisely? Because, god damn, that is one long ass sentence.

  • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

    true. I like the common speak for common people, bit. I didn’t agree with that comment in the other ‘writer’ piece. Writer’s write.

  • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

    true. I like the common speak for common people, bit. I didn’t agree with that comment in the other ‘writer’ piece. Writer’s write.

  • Vi

    Lol win

  • Vi

    Lol win

  • Erik

    This is really good and the other one is reallyreallyREALLY awful.

    • Aelya

      No, neither is good and neither is awful. They’re both opinions

  • Kim Windyka

    AMEN…(writing copy for a cruise catalog as we speak)

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