Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I’m Not a Real Writer If…

‘I’m not a real writer if…’ statements might sound absurd, but I’ve heard them muttered by more than a few writers. We use them when our doubts begin to wash in. Before long, they threaten to  carry away our confidence*.

I’m not a real writer if I don’t write every day.
By the same logic doctors aren’t real doctors if they don’t see patients every day. Writers need to live a little to be able to write because our best writing comes from experience. We need to earn a living since writing doesn’t pay except for the rare few. We can be constantly thinking about writing, constantly observing the world, but we don’t have to be writing all the time or every day. There are benefits of writing every day, as I’ve explained in a previous post, but it doesn’t somehow make you a failure if you can’t.

I’m not a real writer if I’m not published.
For a long time I didn’t tell anyone I was a writer because the first response I got was, “Oh, you’re a writer! Where have you been published?” While I’m able to answer that question now with a happy collection of short story achievements, for a long time I thought publication validated me as a writer. But here’s the truth: Publication doesn’t make a writer, it’s simply a means of sharing a writer’s work.

I’m not a real writer if I haven’t written a novel.
I know plenty of writers who have found a fulfilling career from writing short stories. None of them are somehow less of a writer. They found a niche they take a great deal of enjoyment from.

I’m not a real writer if I don’t have more than one idea for a story.
For a long while I stressed over this one because I struggled to come up with new ideas. After a reminder from my hubby that I have a tendency to focus on my current project in a way that sets up blinders to everything else, I realised that’s okay. The moment I finished the manuscript, the ideas started flooding in. But even if you are a writer with one idea, that’s okay too. Pour all you have into that idea and give it all you’ve got. If you do, then you’ll create something special.

I’m not a real writer if I take more than a year to write a book.
Tolkien took around 12 years to write The Lord of the Rings. Apparently Suzanne Collins took about two years to write The Hunger Games. George R R Martin, author of the Game of Thrones, is notorious for being a slow writer with 10 years between books. And let’s not forget it takes a while for the ideas to percolate before a writer even starts to write.

There are, of course, more statements I could add here, but I think I’ve made my point. We all work differently and what works for one writer may not work for you, and that’s okay.

Whether you're a writer or not, do you have a tendency to think this way? What do you do to remove this kind of negative thinking?

This post was written for the Insecure Writers' Support Group hosted by Alex J Cavanaugh. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.

*This is not to say our confidence is a coconut but I just had to use this pic I took on the Isle of Pines ;)


And now for the Giveaway of an ebook copy of Make Believe. Everyone's names of those who helped me with the launch and will be helping me in the tour went into the sparkly hat. A huge thank you to everyone who took part, but there could only be one winner. My adorable husband drew the winning name...

And the Winner is...
Congratulations, Libby!! 
Please send me an email detailing which e-format you'd like Make Believe in.

62 comments:

  1. A wonderful post. You certainly made me feel I am a writer even though I lack all those attributes which we judge writers from. :)

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  2. Congratulations to Libby for winning the e-book. I'm happy to pay bucks for it.
    Love the post. Most of our idols took years to craft their novels, that's why they've stood the test of time. Just saying to Roland Yeomans (we both idolise Hemingway) that he took 3 years to pen A Moveable Feast, which looks deceptively simple, but of course he fretted over every sentence. Nowadays, there is a rush to get as many books on Amazon in as short a time as possible - the craft must suffer if writing is done in a hurry - well, methinks anyhow. D

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    1. Oh I totaly agree, Denise. The craft is definitely suffering because of the mad rush. We need to slow down, enjoy the craft, fret over those sentences. As much as I'm impatient to publish my novel, I'd prefer it to be the best it can be before it goes out there.

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  3. I agree; being slow to write doesn't make you less of a writer (in fact, you could argue it makes you more of a writer as you agonize over every single word :P)

    Jamie

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  4. Great thoughts Lynda. I do often have weeks away from writing but find that it still flows naturally as soon as I pick up the pen. Good post!
    Duncan In Kuantan

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  5. When self-doubt sets in, I remind myself that everyone starts from somewhere, and that everyone's journey is different. A very thoughtful post!

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  6. An excellent post. I think I've had every single one of these doubts at some point or other. I'm slowly becoming more comfortable with my own status as a writer though, so these things are bothering me less.

    After all, it's a journey and not a race.

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  7. Thanks for giving me hope Lynda. Now I can say I'm a writer with more confidence. Congrats to Libby!
    Julie

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  8. Being a 'real' writer is overrated; I'd rather be an imaginary writer!

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  9. Nice post! I agree with you, but I'm not always able to convince myself and I do let myself focus too much on that "I'm not a writer if"- thing.

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  10. We so need to remember those! The idea one still gets me sometimes. And writer is one who writes - period.

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  11. Congrats, Liddy, for winning Make Believe. You're really going to like it.

    As for me, I'm a writer and author. I have a trilogy I've been working on for seven years. Just because it's not published doesn't mean I'm not hard at work perfecting the craft and making the story the best it can be for me. I now have a short story published which, by literary standards, makes me an "author". It may not be a novel, but it's what I've got out there. Let me tell you...it doesn't matter if it's a short story or a 90,000 word novel. When you get that first contract, You float for days. Someone else believed in your writing to publish it. So writers, write your heart out, but don't forget to submit. Sometimes, you just have to take the leap of faith.

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    1. well said, Jenny. And I totally agree that it doesn't matter if it's a short story or an epic novel, that first contract is truly incredible.

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  12. So true! Oh but I do tend to feel my writing is just a hobby as I'm totally unfocused! LOL!!

    I get over the negative feelings by stepping back and away! Take care
    x

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  13. This is so true. I can relate to many of the points that you mentioned and have said this many times to myself. Thanks for making me feel like I'm not the only one.

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  14. I know people might get angry with me but I fully agree with the one which says - you're not a writer until you get published :) You can't be a doctor if you don't have patients, you can't be a teacher if you have no students, and you cannot be a writer if you have no books :)

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    1. yes, but a doctor had to learn his profession before he practiced on patients. As for writers, they only need one reader and that reader could be the writer ;)

      But I do agree that you can't be a write if you don't write at all. Writers need to write.

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  15. Great points, Lynda. We search for that validation while all the time what makes a writer is the fact that we write.

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  16. Great post. It's ridiculous the way the non-writing world views writers. I'm sure it because of the media but I'm with you and your points.

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    1. I reckon it's because non-writers don't see the pain and agony that goes on behind the scenes. They simply see the polished work on the bookshop shelf and believe that's how one measures a writer's success.

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  17. Great post. You echoed a lot of the things I was feeling this morning in my post. We're each on an individual path, and have to just keep our head down and keep working toward our goal the best we can. :)

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  18. Awesome! I've experienced some of these doubts, and others,but now I've learned to shoo them away. Congratulations on the publication. The cover is gorgeous!

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  19. This is a great post, Lynda. So many writers need to hear this.

    I can remember back when I wrote my first novel. My parents actually bought me a laptop for Christmas to help out (I was homeschooling then, and the kids were competing with me for the desktop). I worried -even though I was inspired and driven- that THAT story was the only one I had in me. I felt guilty that my parents had spent all that money for *nothing*.

    Now, two years later, I don't worry anymore. In fact, I'm coming up with story ideas faster than I can write them. LOL I can say with surety (whether I ever get published or not) that I AM a writer. ;)

    IWSG #145 until Alex culls the list again. :)

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    1. hehe yep, I've had a similar experience. It's awesome to hear that you don't worry anymore.

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  20. I'm not a super-fast writer, so it's a relief to read about Tolkien and Collins taking their sweet time to write their masterpieces! think the hurry, hurry up, high-pressure vibe today is contributing to author stress, and most likely making authors turn out less than great books-at least part of the time.

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  21. I'm slow, but I'm (trying) not letting it bother me as long as I keep chugging along.

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  22. I think I'm over those kind of self-doubts. I'm a writer. :)

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  23. Different people work different ways. That's what I tell myself. And it's nice to know so many writers and know personally that some people write every day, some people write twice a week, and they do whatever works for them. There are no hard-and-fast rules.

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  24. Lynda...you calmed my fears today, as I have thought the same for most of these points. I don't write everyday, not that I don't want to, time is a precious commodity. I'm not published (yet).

    But I'm a writer. I love to write. I love to express myself to others. It's tough to tell people I'm a writer, but I do. I've got to own it to become it.

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    1. awesome attitude. It's an attitude which will take you far. Keep writing!

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  25. "Publication doesn’t make a writer, it’s simply a means of sharing a writer’s work." Soooo true! Something I regularly remind myself of too :) Great post, and lovely picture at the top!

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  26. I know I had a hang up about calling myself a writer until I had finished a first draft of something. Which is did last June and then changed my profiles from aspiring writer to just writer. I read the definition of a writer is someone who writes. So, we are all writers.

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    1. Firstly, congrats on finishing that first draft.
      Secondly, yay for taking off 'aspiring'!

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  27. Appreciate you sharing. Blessings.

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    1. Wow, it's wonderful to hear from you again. It's been quite some time. Many blessings to you also.

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  28. I think this is a great post with a valuable message.

    As writers, if we're inclined to self doubt, we can always move the goal posts, no matter how successful we become - which would eventually either drive us mad or take the joy out of writing.

    For instance, not being a writer because you've never being published could change to - never having published a book. Or not writing every day could change to not writing five hours a day.

    Like you clearly point out, our writing success is all about our attitude and approach. We can aim high without defining ourselves in a negative way - and the freedom that gives makes sure that writing stays fresh. exciting and something we love to do.

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  30. I've told myself all the things that you've mentioned on more than one occasion. But ultimately it's up to me to debunk that thinking. Yes, it would be nice to have something published now, but I have to have the confidence that it will come in time if I keep working and writing.

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  31. You are a WRITER!!! Full stop!! No question! excuse all the exclamation points...

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  32. LOVED this Lynda! I'm just beginning to feel the squeeze of 'not a real writer if I don't write a novel'. My work right now is shorter fiction, and I'm having that 'I need to do something lengthier if I'm going to be taken seriously' feeling. Which I know is nonsense, but it's there.

    I'm so genuinely happy to see the cover for the book featuring your short story everywhere, btw! One, because it's a pretty cover, and two, because I know you're thrilled with the publication. :-D

    This is my first month in IWSG and I'm glad so many of my 'blog friends' are on the list of participants.

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    1. Thanks so much :)
      And welcome to the IWSG!!!

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  33. FANTASTIC post! I think we all think this, because writing is very personal. Music school beat out most of my insecurities. It did take me a long time to start telling friends and family that I was a writer, though. Took a long time to own that I was a writer. All of these things are so true, and I love the explanations!

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  34. This is a great post! It's easy to think you're not a real writer if you're not writing every day, or if you're meeting obstacles. This is a good reminder to keep going.

    Congratulations to Libby!

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  35. Great post! I always struggle with the pressures that come with admitting to being a writer, but your post made me feel better. Thank you for that.

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  36. A great movie that reminds me of the power of self-belief, was entitled, "I am a Writer, that's what I am." Your piece here reminded me of it. Every since I saw the movie some years ago, I have had very little doubt about being a writer. I am a writer, that's what I am! :)

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    1. oh, I'll have to watch that movie. I've not heard of it.

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  37. I used to think that way, but about two years ago, I decided that if I am writing, I am a writer. since then I have had short stories published in anthologies and wrote a regular feature for a monthly magazine for over a year. Maybe believing I'm a writer drew more writing opportunities to me.

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    1. I think you are on to something there, Moonduster. That belief gave you the confidence to embrace those opportunities.

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  38. I admit to being a writer, but I am yet to authoring a book. It makes me a bit crazy when people assume if you write a book you choose an agent and you choose a publisher and it's that easy. LOL!

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  39. I'm always thinking that I'm not a writer if I don't write everyday. But in reality, life gets in the way (not a bad thing!) and I usually do better writing every other day. They weren't kidding when they said writing rules were made to be broken. ;)

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  40. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. And I'm so pleased your words from "down-under" don't appear up upside down!

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  41. I don't really tend to worry about whether I'm a writer or not--at least not anymore. I know I went through a stage where I didn't feel like I could call myself a "real" writer.

    Great post!

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  42. Great points; we've probably all thought these about ourselves to one degree or another! :)

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  43. I fall in the category of I'm not published yet therefore...

    Struggle with that one more than any of the others.

    Great post!

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  44. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm not any of those things, but I AM a REAL writer. Thank you!

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  45. A very good article and some very good comments. Some of my self doubts will begin to disappear I'm sure now.

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  46. Hi, Lynda,

    I am SOOOOO glad I dropped by here today. Your post really helped put my mind into the right perspective. Lately I have been feeling very much less of a writer and more of a schlepper. Running around like a crazy man doing so many other things and avoiding my writing because I haven't felt my efforts have been successful after pounding the keyboard for almost four years.

    I couldn't agree more about your statement that writer's must LIVE to be able to write. Life experiences give a treasure trove of ideas. How can a writer write honestly about life if they haven't LIVED.

    I am glad you are decorating this weekend. YAY,,,, Christmas does only come ONCE a year. It's a time for magic.... caring .... and LOVE.

    Thanks again,

    Michael

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    1. I am so glad this article has made a difference. The hard slog with no solid results can get difficult, but to stop writing would be worse. And a writer who perseveres is a writer who succeeds.
      Hugs

      Lyn

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