Thought Catalog

The Difference Between A Writer And Someone Who Writes

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A writer is not just someone who writes. In her head, it’s words all day. She sees the world not as a place made up of things but of words about those things. She knows more meaning is contained in a phrase like “poison friends” than a paragraph-long attempt at comparing emotional pain to a stab wound. A writer will divine a metaphor from a pattern on a dress, or a gesture, because sunsets have been done before. A writer understands the capacity for words to embolden, to eviscerate, to cut a man in half. A writer’s words have texture and an aesthetic – they mean one thing on paper and another in your mouth. A writer knows the word “perfume” has a scent, and “savory,” a flavor. She also knows that the technical term for making you taste her words is synesthesia, but she’d rather show you than tell you.

A writer’s mind is sticky, cavernous. It is a locus of constant invention and generation, but also of deconstruction and warfare. Its very synapses fire bullets between semicolons and periods. In the infancy of the day, or as it’s expelling its final breath, an errant phrase will show up there unannounced and become lodged in some furrow. It will keep the writer up at night, until she’s built a temple, or at the very least, a sand castle, around it.

A writer believes in truth but understands the utility of a lie. Someone who writes will think about a lie in terms of its anatomy: she’ll see it as something with dead legs, flayed on a cold steel table, reeking of that stuff we use now instead of formaldehyde, because formaldehyde will kill you, too. But a writer believes in a lie’s biology and knows it is still alive, animated by some preternatural aspiration, an amorphous mass of amorphous cells, dividing and multiplying and taking on some new architecture every time you look at it. A writer knows a lie doesn’t want to die.

Someone who writes writes from a place of common experience in a common language, beleaguered by tired phrases and obvious similes, for those we call in my day job “the mass market consumer.” This is the audience who rapid-fire tweets without adding commentary. A blogger writes for the Facebook share; a writer writes for mind share. But still, in a way, a writer writes for herself. She knows her best work will get the least traction because the mass market consumer didn’t study English literature and doesn’t have the means to do the heavy lifting of literary analysis. And that’s OK. She writes for them, too, but only because it’s a way in. It’s sort of like when Ryan Gosling does one Notebook for every four Blue Valentines. A writer knows you’ll get that analogy but kicks herself for drawing it.

Someone who writes writes as herself. A writer’s voice, on the other hand, is chameleon-like. She can write from the perspective of a nine-year-old child or a pair of hands and make you believe. A writer knows exactly what T.S. Eliot meant when he wrote, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” A writer not only fashions the image of a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas, but could tease speech out of those waves and teach sign language to those claws. A writer drowns in deeper oceans.

Someone who writes understands writing in terms of something she does, not in terms of something she is. A writer is aware of the singular stuff of which her soul is composed, but will never shake that gnawing feeling of inadequacy. She will be at once inspired and made to feel inferior by other writers’ words. But she’ll never let that stop her. She’ll continue to see the poetry in a broken watch, or a dog with one blue eye and one brown. She will give you her heart on a Saturday night for the story she gets to tell on a Sunday afternoon.  She will give you her soul always. And she will give it to you in writing. TC mark

image – Simon Fieldhouse

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    • http://addybee.wordpress.com/ Adrienne Nicole Bernal

      This is brilliant.

    • John Charles

      This is garbage.

    • Nate

      This is somewhere between garbage and brilliant. 

      • Nate

        Thanks for all the likes guys. First off, I’d like to thank Jesus. Without Him I never could’ve been inspired to write what I did. I’d like to thank my moms for bringing into this earth. And most of all I’d like to thank all my fans who believed in me from the start. One love. God bless. 

    • Phil

      Sounds like just a different way of romanticizing the writer’s life.

    • Michael Lynch

      Apparently a writer is also a female.

      I think substituting the word ‘writer’ for ‘poet’ would make this post more true.

      I believe good writing, particularly non fiction, shouldn’t be complex in form. I think quite the opposite actually, that good writing is complex in meaning but simple in form. If one conveys great meaning without unnecessarily over complicating things, then one has succeeded.

      • Eliot Rose

        Apologies
        for the gender-specific pronouns.  A writer knows that
        “they” is plural, and “he or she” would be too cumbersome to repeat so
        many times.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FQBOL3ZHPHDYFGRD53EVFREV4A El puto

          if the writer used “he” instead of “she” in her piece, she would’ve eliminated 18 characters from the said piece.

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

        I don’t know about that. 

      • TNI

        Wow. This particular writer is using the pronoun “she” because we have a limited language that only has two pronouns, and perhaps using “she” resonated more with the writer. Would you even say anything if the writer used “he”? Why get hung up on that? Some of the most lyrical writing reads like poetry, and some of the most narrative poetry reads like fiction. 

        • Michael Lynch

          Using ‘he’ would of course be equally as gender specific. I don’t mind that ‘she’ was used but it was an observation I made nonetheless. I tried to put myself in the author’s shoes but that became increasingly difficult. I suppose the avoidance of personal pronouns all together would have been one way around that and yes, some creativity would have been required to work around the limitation. In any case, I don’t really care.

          I agree that “some of the most lyrical writing reads like poetry, and some of the most narrative poetry reads like fiction” but neither of those are non fiction, which is what I was referring to.

    • laicamarie

      this made me cry. 

      • Fafafa

        This made me cry because it was so disgusting.

    • Amandine

      A writer does not self-aggrandize using the purplest prose this side of Edward Bulwer-Lytton…

      Oh, hang on.

    • Amandine

      A writer does not self-aggrandize using the purplest prose this side of Edward Bulwer-Lytton…

      Oh, hang on.

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

        IF PAUL WEST EMBRACES PURPLE PROSE, THEN I DO TOO.

        • Amandine

          Paul West embraced Nabokov, Joyce, and Faulkner.

          Despite what Ms. Rose seems to believe, she is none of the above.

        • Anonymous

          Wait, so a young writer, honing her craft while reflecting on its very nature does not have the same prosaic magnitude as three of the greatest writers of all time?  But that’s what I come to TC for! I want Faulkner, TC, and I will not stand for anything else!

    • anna

      reasons why i don’t consider myself a writer

    • Guest

      (Vomits all over self.)

    • Rsmall225

      Can we please include he in there? Other than that I enjoyed this blog.

      • TNI

        For once in the world the word HE isn’t mention and all the male readers freak out. Go on with your Hemingway and Pynchon!

        • Phil

          I’m male and I’m not freaking out about that. I’m not freaking out at all. 

          I’m sitting on my couch looking at my feet and wondering: Should I write about my feet? They’re so writerly. They plumb the depths of the human soul, the every-soul, the all-soul, the soles of my feet are like the souls of aesthetes. I am sitting on my couch and thinking: Are my feet enough to understand everything about everything? Has language made me incapable of seeing my feet as they truly are? Is there something essential about the foot that I’m not capturing? Maybe if I write about my feet in elliptical, allusive prose, quoting TS Eliot without really explaining how he is relevant, and granting irrational importance to the idea that there is a difference between a writer and someone who writes (I am clearly a writer, for I am writing about my feet instead of guns and sex)… ellipsis… Pynchon uses those… Short. Staccato. Sentences. Hemingway uses those. Stereotypes about male readers… You use those. Well. I must go on. I must go on. I must write about these feet if I am to die having uttered something worth silencing the television for. But I don’t have a television! And all at once my feet tingle, they tingle so pleasantly, less pleasantly, help, my feet are on fire. But they do not burn. If only my feet would burn. If only I could feel.

        • TO

          You’re the best.

    • Milk is Chillin'

      Um, pretentious much? A writer writes. Simple.

      • Seriously

        OMG I was about to write exactly THAT.

      • http://maxwellchance.wordpress.com Duke Holland of Gishmale

        I say we rename this article to “The Difference Between A Pompous Ass And Someone Who Writes”

    • Stefan

      do not want; this was the opposite of inspiring.

    • Andrew Joseph Ridgeway

      Don’t listen to the haters, this was pretty great. 

    • Rice Paper Plant

      The difference between a writer and people who write is that writers have their names on the spines of books and people who write spend their days behind a Starbucks counter, pumping out caramel lattes while they contemplate the extended meaning of the word tall.

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

        rite

    • Brandon De Souza

      i am throwing up, this is something that is happening

    • Seymour Blake

      Now… the difference between a writer and an author works like this:

      A writer writes. An author writes and gets published. 

      That’s my essay.

    • Abbyhope

      A writer is pretentious, arrogant, and impossible to be around.

      • Anonymous

        so you’ve met some of them then?

    • TNI

      I love how you’ve constructed this medley of images. Why apologize for gender-specificity, when many of your musings are “universal”–and “She” acts as a placeholder when we know there’s not much else besides “he”.

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

      PLEASE do not listen to a word of that bullshit these haters be talking—you are clearly one of the very best writers on Thought Catalogue, and this is your best piece so far. I really admire you for having the courage to risk being labelled “pretentious” in order to say what you actually feel.

      I should say as well that I completely agree with this article and feel the same way. I might put it this way: for someone who writes, the problem is figuring out what to say; for a writer, the problem is figuring out *how* to say what she knows she wants to say. The best writers often stammer inarticulately when you ask them to tell you about what you’re working on.

      I was actually planning on putting that quote from T.S. Eliot in a comment until you beat me to it.

      In conclusion: you’re great, please keep writing and publish often.

      • Jennifer

         ‘one of the very best writers on Thought Catalogue’

        I think that these ‘very best writers’ should start a website called ‘Thought Catalogue’ and publish all their purple prose, self-congratulatory ‘writing’ there…

        • Gaydad

          fuck yesss such a good idea yesss

    • Rebecca K

      So much hateful talk! This was encouraging for those of us who laboriously craft our words, and for those of us who aim to write as a means to create art (not just write for the sake of writing).

      Thank you Ms. Rose, I applaud this piece.

    • Rebecca K

      So much hateful talk! This was encouraging for those of us who laboriously craft our words, and for those of us who aim to write as a means to create art (not just write for the sake of writing).

      Thank you Ms. Rose, I applaud this piece.

      • Phil

        I made an art once. At first I wasn’t sure — I was just crafting words. But then I looked closely at the wrinkles and the curves and I thought: I have made an art! And the art rose and jumped around and I could not catch it. My art had taken off! I could no longer control my art. It had become its own little thing. That is the story of my art.

        • CWICW

          Phil, you are the greatest commenter on the internet. 

        • CWICW

          Phil, you are the greatest commenter on the internet. 

        • dav

          phil, you are a poet

      • Perfectfaggotdark

        ugh why don’t you and the other go lick each others’ bumholes and call it performance art you pricks

      • Perfectfaggotdark

        ugh why don’t you and the other go lick each others’ bumholes and call it performance art you pricks

    • Rebecca K

      So much hateful talk! This was encouraging for those of us who laboriously craft our words, and for those of us who aim to write as a means to create art (not just write for the sake of writing).

      Thank you Ms. Rose, I applaud this piece.

    • Anonymous

      Preeetenshussss

    • Anonymous

      Preeetenshussss

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