We all know a myriad of people who claim to be writers. Whether it’s your friend from college who hasn’t actually ever published anything, or some guy at a bar who claims to have written a moderately successful novel of which you have never heard. The problem with writing that seems to have emerged recently, is people’s attitude towards writers. Or perhaps writers’ attitudes towards the profession. What seems to have developed is the image of the writer as some sort of self-deprecating, judgmental hipster with too much spare time. Though there may be little to no truth in this label, we need to, as writers, think about some of the practices that have shaped it.
1. Not writing
Other writer related activities aside – such as complaining about writers block, introducing yourself as a writer, reading about writing, bitching about other writers’ work – if you’re not writing, you’re not a writer.
2. Being stuck up about what people are reading
If I want to read the occasional Dan Brown novel when I can’t sleep and need something mindless, or if I might have binge-read the entire series of Pretty Little Liars novels, so what? Just because you read something doesn’t mean that you immediately catch the style of that book and can never write anything else. If I want to read fifteen Pretty Little Liars books, it doesn’t mean that all of my subsequent writing will be about teenage girls and their stalkers with each chapter ending in an “A text”. Sometimes I like to read trashy books, it’s relaxing to not read something and think “that’s a brilliant literary device, why didn’t I think of it?” every few sentences, and you know what, it’s entertaining. Like watching the Bachelor. But on paper.
3. Bitching about other writers’ success
It might be somebody who went to your school who now writes for a big literary journal, or an author you don’t believe deserves to be published – but you know what? It’s nothing to do with you. Negativity towards somebody else’s success is not only unwarranted, it’s counterproductive to your own goals. How can you be working on building your own career when you’re too busy worrying about who’s beating you to getting published?
4. Trying to emulate other writers’ process
You are not JK Rowling or Stephen King, you’re not even a little known writer with a known process – you are you, and you will have your own way of writing. Don’t let other people tell you that you have to write X amount of words every hour, or that you have to sacrifice a kitten to the gods of the publishing world to deter the demons of un-publishable novels from infiltrating your creative process. Do whatever you think works best for you. If you want to start ten pieces and only finish one every week, that might just be how you roll. It is okay to do things your own way.
5. Dismissing the advice of editors and deciding that your rejection letter was “totally unfair because they don’t know good writing anyway”
First of all, even if your piece was good, you need to know what a publication is looking for before you submit to it. If you submit a list of “10 crazy twists that could happen on Game of Thrones” to a blog about socio-political issues, you’re probably not paying attention to what they publish. Know what publishers want, know your audience, know the style and the format, don’t disregard these things. The reason they have guidelines is because what they publish needs to fit their niche and be readable to their audience.
6. Complaining that the writing world is unfair because your talent hasn’t been recognized
You know what would solve this issue? Write more and complain less. You might find that if you put more work out there, you’ll get noticed or, god forbid, improve as a writer.