I AM a “Real” Writer and They Just Don’t Get It

Free-For-All Friday:  I AM a “Real” Writer and They Just Don’t Get It

(CC) David Turnbull

There’s been some discussion on Twitter and various blogs (as there always is this time of year) about whether NaNoWriMo is really for “real” writers, or if it’s just for non-writers who want to FEEL like “real” writers for a month.  Now, I have NO DOUBT that many of the people who participate in NaNo never write a single word of fiction (except for that email to the boss about being sick) at any other time the whole rest of the year.  However, a) that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them wanting to try on the “writer” hat during a month when there is lots of enthusiasm and support for the endeavor; and b) plenty of “real” writers who write ALL THE BLOODY TIME also participate in NaNo.

Case in point, I consider myself a “real” writer (whatever the hell that actually means).  No, I’m not published.  No, I don’t have an agent.  And no, I don’t write all that often during the semester (I should say I don’t write FICTION often during the semester, but I’m writing non-fiction up the wazoo).  But I DO write at every given opportunity, I scrape out every spare moment I can, I write in the middle of class sometimes, and I forego sleep some nights because that’s the only time I can find.  And when I took the year off last year, I wrote pretty much NON-STOP.  And did FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY finish a whole first draft (and very long one at that) of a novel.  So, I consider myself a “real” writer, and I think I have right to.

And I LOVE NaNoWriMo.

I love it for a lot of reasons.  I love it because it is the sort of masochistic fun I tend to get myself into.  I love because of all the enthusiasm and support.  I love it because of all the crazy, eccentric, fun, would-be/hopeful writers who crawl out of the wood-work disguised as housewives and teachers and highschoolers and businessmen and firefighters, etc, etc, etc.

But here’s the one thing I think I love MOST about NaNoWriMo: For one month, I can tell my family I’m writing, and they back off.  For some reason, the tangible goal of writing 50,000 in one month is real enough and presumably daunting enough that they realize my time/energy/concentrate are precious, and they don’t bother me with incessant questions, or requests to “just spend some time with family,” or tirades about not doing the dishes in two days.  They leave me alone, and let me write.

Here’s the problem though: They just don’t get that this is how we writers think ALL THE TIME.  In November, when tell someone you’re writing, they don’t respond: “but you wrote YESTERDAY!”  They understand: “But I only have x days left to write x words!  I’m on a deadline and I just don’t have time for anything else right now!”  BUT, any other time of the year, if I say I’m writing, so I don’t have time right now, the retort is: “but you write everyday!” or “you were writing yesterday, can’t you take a couple days off?” or (my favorite) “some things [insert: spending time with family, doing housework, mowing the lawn, etc] are more important than your little hobby.”

They just don’t understand that we’re thinking: “But I only have the rest of my life to write every insane word crowded around and screaming in my brain! And that’s a whole helluva lot of words, dammit!  I’m on a deadline and I just don’t have time for anything else right now!”

Now, I’m not saying I do (or want to) ignore every other aspect of my life.  I still do housework, I still clean the dishes, and do laundry, and go grocery shopping, and do my homework, and watch a little tv, and go to family dinners, and all that other stuff.  But if the dishes wait a couple days while I get a huge chunk of inspired prose out of my screaming brain, then so be it.  And if some Sundays I’d rather sit in my office and write instead of sitting in my grandmother’s living room while all my uncles watch football and I try to look entertained, then so be it.  And my family just doesn’t get it.

As long as it’s November, and I have a clear start and end date, with clear guidelines and an attainable goal in mind, well then: that’s a pretty cool achievement.  But if I’m just writing, every day, any time I can find a few spare moments, when I should be doing homework, when I should be sleeping…  Well, then, it’s like my brother playing video games all the damn time: it’s a fine enough hobby in moderation, but it shouldn’t take over your life, and never supersedes your other duties, activities, etc.

Perhaps if/when I’ve published something, and can definitively say: look, this is a career choice, not just a hobby!  I AM A REAL WRITER.

Maybe then they’ll get it.

But then again, maybe not.


15 thoughts on “I AM a “Real” Writer and They Just Don’t Get It

  1. Most of my writing concerns old Hanna Barbera cartoons, mock dating advice, Twitter and Steven Seagal. I’m a real writer, because I write consistently. If you’re dedicated to writing, you’re a writer.

  2. I’m a real writer too…whatever that is…although oddly I have gotten nothing but support for my hobby/lifestyle/dysfunction. Well, except for my grandma, but grandma is grandma and you take what she says with a spoon of sugar or else you spend half your time being offended haha.

    However, I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo. Not out of some snoodiness. Just because it takes me forever to construct even a short story, let alone one that is 50k words long. On Dark Paths was a little longer than that and it took me the better part of two semesters to finish it give or take, and another four or five months to do Strange World.

    This whole “real” writer thing is silly – if you write, you’re a writer. If you do it once a year, you’re still a writer in some sense. We should be embracing others who join our crazy tribe, not sneering at new members because they aren’t writerly enough, haha.

    • Yeah, that’s understandable. NaNoWriMo is a special sort of beast that isn’t conducive to everyone’s writing process. I tend to work fairly well under pressure, and I often need deadlines and such to keep myself moving. However, taking this one while doing my PhD is proving… uh… difficult… insane… stupid…

      *shrug* We’ll see if I’m still alive at the end of the month. ^_^

  3. it’s a fine enough hobby in moderation, but it shouldn’t take over your life

    Heh. *snerk* They said “hobby” *gigglesnort*
    Oh, wait. Those guys were serious?
    But, but, but…

    I wonder how they’d feel about someone like me? Who writes (and therefore does a lot) of gaming? Granted, its table-top RPG stuff – character sketches, town descriptions, villainous plots to take over your SOUL.

    I know you know this already but it bears repeating: you are a real writer. Those words aren’t going to just pop out on their own, you know.

    • *sigh* Yeah, they’re serious. At least some of them are. My mom tries to be understanding and supportive, though she still gets annoyed if I’ve locked myself away for too long. The rest of my family… they REALLY just don’t get it.

      And thanks for the encouragement. It’s nice to know SOME people think I’m a real writer. 😀

  4. Pingback: Sunday Link Love and ROW 80 Update 11/13/11 « Annalise Green

  5. Thanks so much for writing this post—I agree 100%. I’ve been reading stuff like this too recently, and it drives me UP the FREAKING WALL. I find it tends to come from people who prefer the “polishing-each-sentence-until-it-is-perfect” method of writing, which is totally fine. I have nothing but respect people who write that way. What annoys the heck out of me is when they become convinced that this is the only way to produce quality writing and that a messy-draft-followed-by-revisions style is somehow inferior. Neither method is good or bad. They are merely different and work better for different people. Deal with it.

    I know I’m preaching to the choir here, so I’ll leave it at that. But in short: YES. We are most definitely real writers. 🙂

  6. I love NaNoWriMo. This is only my second year doing it. I managed to get 12,000 words last year and I am determined to get more this year. I would love to say that I’ll make 50,000, but I’m taking baby steps. LOL.

    I am also not published and I feel that my friends and most of my family, just don’t get it either. If it’s not award worthy or getting noticed, it shouldn’t matter that much to me.

    I think you’re a real writer. 🙂

  7. Right on, sister! You are a writer. I loved your statement “They just don’t understand that we’re thinking: “But I only have the rest of my life to write every insane word crowded around and screaming in my brain! And that’s a whole helluva lot of words, dammit! I’m on a deadline and I just don’t have time for anything else right now!” ” I am so filled with ideas and I don’t have the time to get them all out. And no, people that don’t write don’t understand that you NEED to write every day. You get so lost when you don’t write. Even if it’s only a sentence or two of ideas.

    I spent a couple hours writing this and that yesterday, working on several stories, and I still feel like it wasn’t enough. There is not time enough in the day to get it all out and written.

    But keep your chin up, and well, ignore those ones that say you just wrote yesterday. Or look at them and tell them they just went to their job yesterday, why do they need to today…. 🙂

    • I’m so glad to find others who know how I feel and agree with me. And I’m glad I am able to say something that resonates with people.

      Also: “look at them and tell them they just went to their job yesterday, why do they need to today” –> LOL! That’s a great idea! I’m definitely using that one some time. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Good luck with your writing!

  8. I’m a real reader. I don’t read all the time but I do when I get a chance. Sadly, I can’t make a living out of being a reader so I have to support my reading with a full time job which, sadly, means I am afforded even less time to read. However, I’m still a real reader.

    And so goes my argument about writing. I don’t have the stats but I know the world of publishing isn’t bursting with James Pattersons, Stephen Kings and Stephanie Meyers so many writers have to subsidise their habit with another job.

    Tell an artist who doesn’t have time to paint masterpieces every day that they are not an artist. Art is such a subjective thing that what you consider art and I consider art can be totally different. Books are art. My writing may not be artistic to you but it is to me. Writer is not a label you can put on me, it is one I choose to put on myself. And yes, I am taking part in Nanowrimo for the second time…and hopefully I’ll get the guts of something written that I can turn into art…

    One more thing: Harper Lee wrote one book. It won a Pulitzer Prize and is much lauded but is she a writer because her book was published, won a prize or because she wrote the book? Is she more or less of a writer than someone who wrote ten books that didn’t get published?

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