Monday, November 16, 2009

What is a Writer: Part 1


Inspiration for this post comes from Karen Mahoney, who bravely declared what a writer is and who should dare to call themselves writers and that there are no such things as writers with the capital W and that publication doesn’t matter so much. I chime in to further break down this misconception. When you strip the awards, the contracts and the popularity from all the iconic names in literatures you get the same core that every other writer has and that is the devotion to the craft. This unity in concept prevails in my language for the native word in my language for writer and author is one and the same, although we did steal ‘author’ and added a Slavic spin on it.

So there we have it - “publication a writer does not make” would say Yoda. But what are the behavioral criteria to categorize a person as a writer. I have a list compiled with the symptoms and signs that will tell you whether you are a writer or know a writer personally. I am starting with the first three things and will continue on Wednesday.

1. Accessories.

This is the most obvious and slightly misleading criteria. The proverbial writer does not leave his/her house without the essential notebook/journal, which guarded with the writer’s life and is more valued than the wallet filled with IDs, important documents and money. Said journal is handled with utmost care and if lost can cause a writer heart failure. On second spot there is the novel, which is kept in case circumstances do not allow writing in the journal. This applies to book-a-holics in general, but valid for authors as well. To a writer pens are as important as lighters to a heavy smoker and yet the writer fails to keep track of where all his/hers pens go and usually goes around in search for a pen. Writers also have affinity towards scattered pieces of paper and other writing materials such as colored markets, tape, sticky notes and staplers. Then again scrapbookers are also fond of these, so context matters.

2. Skewed perception of time.

Time is not exactly the same in Writer-world. Real world operates with seconds, minutes and hours and in Writer-land it’s all words, pages, chapters and drafts. If you really think about it, I think you have been in a situation, when you replied to another person that you will go to sleep after 500 more words or that you will go grocery shopping after this one chapter or that you will go out after 35 more pages in this book. Word counts and writing goals in general is how writers operate and that’s how a writer sees the week as some deadline that stretches on and on and on. Otherwise writers are not that good with calendar dates and real-world time is so fleeting and confusing, when a writer is in the zone.

3. Uncomfortable curiosity.

Writers exhibit great interest in life, when a certain aspect of life corresponds directly to their newest work in progress, even when the aspect of life is gruesome and questions regarding the socially taboo topic raise eyebrows. To a writer no experience is wasted, especially, when the writer is writing about it. Having high fever and induced heavy palpitation, which brings an ambulance to your heart. Super exciting, because the writer gets to know how it would feel to have an ambulance come, neighbors pry and paramedics act. A field trip. Been there and done that. Broken heart, winning a free prize, falling in love, finding two bucks on the side walk, participating in a fight, being in an accident, watching somebody be a jack ass, being the laughing stock of the school, being an athlete, training a sport, being sick or handicapped. All these things build the material a writer needs to breathe life in his story and much like an actor would do, a writer would immerse himself in his subject matter, experience the things he writes about or ask both polite and uncomfortable questions.

PS: If anywhere I am incorrect please do tell, but I am speaking of personal experience with myself, observation and interaction with other writers, so I think I am objective and accurate.


T.D. Newton said...

You're dead-on so far. Can't wait to read the rest.

Harry Markov said...

The rest is even more obvious, but nevertheless it's worth mentioning since many of us take these odd little things for granted and not as a sign for being a writer by heart.