To Be a Writer or to Write?
Something I have noticed recently is the amount of “writers” who spend their time, instead of actually writing, talking about the craft or sharing other people’s opinions on technique. Generally these “writers” have no inkling to write (other than on their own blog or social media) and yet maintain an air of credibility towards the novices and amateurs that look up to them.
These types of characters are not new but with the recent accessibility of vanity publishing have become more and more prevalent. My partner’s reading club has one such member and I have recently encountered a few others within forums and debates. Whilst their desire to be a writer is strong, their impulse to write appears to be lacking. The difference between wanting to be a writer and being a writer is simple: write.
It is all very good and well to share articles others have written about how to craft a great story, the history of poetic styles, or inspiring quotes from well-known authors, but without actually writing one cannot justify calling oneself a writer. Pearls of wisdom do not a novel make. Even worse is when these so-called experts take others under their wing to mentor and support them yet have no tangible proof of their abilities.
I write under a pseudonym for a number of reasons; one of which is my main career. In my other life I have been published in major news outlets and magazines—and continue to be on a regular basis—but as I am writing fiction under a different name I cannot offer that as evidence of my ability to inform. Instead I can reference my short stories that have been published (one of which is on this site) and my literary agent, with whom I have shared the successes of my alter-ego in order to gain their support. But even without those I can honestly show I am a writer: this is an article; I wrote it. I am not talking but instead writing.
My advice to those looking for support or mentorship is simple: don’t believe the hype. Take all advice with a pinch of salt (including this) and do your own research. Actions speak louder than words; the best orator can be a measly ineffective scribe yet impress in person due to an inflated sense of self-importance combined with either charisma or depth of knowledge. If someone appears to be the font of all wisdom then take a look at what they have had published: if the answer is nothing perhaps it is time to move on. If they have, then discern whether it is on their own blog or has been approved by an editorial team. If they have released a book, is it traditionally or self-published? Download the sample and begin reading; especially if it is self-released. (That is not to suggest a self-published work is automatically a signal of lacking talent, but the odds are somewhat higher.) Are there grammatical errors, or is it a sound and well-written tome? Has it been composed with haste and left as an unrevised first draft? Judge not by what writers say but by what they write.
© 2016 J A DuMairier
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Originally from Thanet, J A DuMairier enjoys writing and long walks in the country.