Sunday, June 14, 2020

Does Anybody Really Know What A Writer Is?

...if you don’t get paid (or paid enough) for your writing, you might also get force-fed the idea that you’re not a real author.

from "Never Say You Can't Survive" by Charlie Jane Anders

There's no ironclad definition for "real author" or "real writer" and with the advent of the equalizing force of the internet, the definition of "real journalist" grows increasingly hazy. If you want to get technical about it, I'm a real opinion writer. Honestly, that's mostly all I write, aside from a little fiction and poetry on the side, but that hardly counts. Ninety-nine percent of my artistic work is right here. Having an "established publishing platform" (this website, eight years strong) certainly helps that argument too.

And it's a cliche lesson in life that the world is neither fair nor works the way it should (as if my IIWK series wasn't proof enough). My audience has deemed that I shouldn't get paid for my work; you have decided this, even if you weren't conscious of making that decision (and most days, I'm okay with that; those days that I'm not, I try to keep my grumbling to a minimum). It still doesn't make me any less of a writer.

And not feeling like this experience is real, like I'm an imposter... that's all part of the package. Chapter Two, which you can read in whole on, of Anders's book is dedicated to Imposter Syndrome.

I'm no stranger to the symptoms. I feel them sometimes in my day job too, but given the advice I've received about not being the brightest person in the room, I belong just as much as the next person; I have proven my worth.

We all know that some of the most valuable work you can do is unpaid, and a lot of the work that you get paid for is worthless.

from "Never Say You Can't Survive" by Charlie Jane Anders

And it's not limited to writers either, though I wonder if we're among the most anxiety-driven of all classes of artists, given how difficult it is to assign quality to a particular piece, when the best some readers get is just "it feels wrong" or "I'm not in the mood." If there's something off about a piece of visual art, more often than not it seems to be smacking you over the head (at least in my experience). Bad writing is so much more subjective.

And rules of writing are pretty subjective too. Gaiman talks about how not knowing "the rules" is a good thing, because it's that much easier to break them. Anders suggests the rules that most "established writers" release are either "overcompensat[ing] suggestions" or "internalized anxieties... [pushed] onto everyone else."

The world is highly suggestive, and if you don't believe me, try studying how people react to dying in their dreams. It's a mess.

We're all different. We all have slightly different definitions and guidelines, skewed by our experiences.

You too can be a "real writer" if you want. All you have to do is write. (And maybe not even that, if you can figure out a way around it.)