Or do you just love the idea of being a writer?
The struggling, dejected, starving, tormented artist isn’t just a trope, it’s practically a rule. With writing specifically, many will tell you how much they actually hate the work. I’m sure I’ve said it and even written it plenty of times myself. And to be frank, I’m ashamed. I love writing, the process, the slog, and especially the rewriting and editing. I love it all.
But that doesn’t mean writing can’t be hard and loathsome and soul-crushing. It can make you feel like garbage, like you and all you’ve done is a waste of oxygen, and like you wouldn’t know the difference between the “theres” if there were a tattoo on your spouse where they’re defined on their forehead. But that act of hating every bit of the process cannot possibly be true or we wouldn’t do it, “we” being actual writers.
I’ve seen a number of posts lately (and this may say more about the forums I’m haunting or just the loudest voices on them) from “writers” complaining that they…don’t want to write? They hate specific aspects of writing which turn out to be just about everything (“I don’t like dealing with the beginning, middle, or end, just the fun action parts!”), or they have so much writer’s block they can’t do anything but stare at a blank page (“I turn on my computer and turn it right back off!”), or they have a supposedly really great idea, and here that idea is in ineloquent detail, but they can’t bring themselves to start (“My mind’s too busy worldbuilding to actually write!”). It’s a weird phenomenon, and I think part of the problem is that writing as a hobby/artform has become one of the very few acts that allows one to give oneself the title of “doer of the thing” without actually doing the thing.
Man, for someone who does claim to be a writer, that sentence sure is garbage, huh?
Writers who don’t write seem to be born from an attempt to be less gatekeepy, and that’s fine, good even–there shouldn’t be an arbitrary minimum, theoretically, to enter into any hobby–but for people that are supposedly so concerned with words, we sure do work hard at making “writer” one of the most meaningless ones. I’m not here to shit on encouragement or to shame someone who doesn’t have the time they’d like to pursue the things they profess to love. That’s not fair, it’s mean even, and harmful. But encouragement can dip into coddling to the point that I’ve seen people call themselves writers (and been there myself) when they’ve produced next to nothing in years. I mean, if you’re passionate about anything–especially something as cheap and easy to start as writing–you can spend fifteen minutes three times a week doing it, yeah?
Again, I don’t think there should be a literal minimum, we shouldn’t be shopping around for a word count bar to claim an elite spot in the sacred inner circle of writers, but we should be professing personal accountability and action rather than wishful thinking and “there there”-ing. I don’t get to call myself a skateboarder if I don’t skate, I don’t get to call myself a hairdresser if I don’t cut hair, I don’t get to call myself a glassblower if I don’t blow glass. So why are we encouraging people who blatantly say they hate writing and are avoiding the actual act at all costs to still call themselves writers? It in no way helps someone who crosses their arms and says “nope” to clap and tell them they’re doing a good job.
If you’re one of these people and reading this, you probably hate me right now, and your feelings are going to be wibbly wobbly about all this. I get that, and truly I don’t want to hurt you, but you’re not entitled to a designation you don’t pursue, right? And entitlement aside, you’ll never actually be the thing you say you are if you don’t take part in said thing, you’re just lying (which is great practice for writing, but it’s still not actually doing it).
I’m not entirely sure if we actually own our identities or they’re really defined by others, but as far as the identity of “writer” goes, having it or not isn’t that important, so, I guess, what’s it matter? It doesn’t actually affect me or anyone else if Frank down the road insists he’s a writer because he got an A on a lit essay in 9th grade and has been thinking up an idea for a novel for the last twenty seven years that he’ll start as soon as he picks out a name for the main character (that’s called a protagonist, Frank). Whatever Frank’s reason, it’s pretty curmudgeonly of me to give a shit, in all honesty. But it doesn’t really help Frank’s novel to ever exist if he’s already writing it by simply being a writer who doesn’t write.