Monday, March 28, 2011

Real Writers Aren't "Aspiring"

...They're Too Busy Perspiring. And Conspiring...

A writer writes.

Being published doesn't make one a writer.

Nor does being famous, rich, successful, a bestseller, or an alcoholic.

What separates writers from non-writers is that one does what the other does not.

This is why it grinds my gizzard every time I visit a blog or read a tweet from a self-described "aspiring writer." (Grrrrr....)

These are people who avidly follow the #amwriting, #amediting, and #pubtip hashtags. They monitor their daily word count. They stay current on what agents are looking for, know who's open to queries, and warn others about the occasional slimeballs they encounter.

These intrepid souls write while holding down full time jobs, raising children, caring for ailing parents and spouses, going to school, going through divorce, battling debilitating illness, and enduring rejections.

They are not aspiring. They are the polar opposite of "aspiring." They are "doing."

Doctors don't save every patient they encounter. Lawyers don't win every case. This fact of life, however, never induces them to call themselves "aspiring." Nor does it keep them from charging their clients handsomely for the privilege of being practiced upon.

In the same vein, writers don't always find a publisher for every thing they write. That doesn't mean they're "aspiring," though.

See, here's the thing. Aspiring writers talk. Writers write.

Sure Signs That You're a Writer

* You have a deep and abiding love affair with caffeine. Or chocolate. Or Cheetos. Or another major food group that is bad for your body but good for your muse.

* You are happiest in worlds of your own building.

* Your characters are as real to you as real people. (And your fondest desire is to meet them in real life.)

* You consider watching TV, going to movies, and reading books work-based research. In fact, you are incapable of watching or reading something purely for entertainment. Instead, your inner critic maintains a running commentary on the good, the bad, and the ugly. [Bonus points and kudos if you've learned not to voice your inner critic's comments aloud, thus enlightening all within hearing distance.]

* You have had at least one Brilliant Idea just before falling asleep and have told yourself "I don't need to get up and write this down. It's so good, I'll remember it in the morning."

* You have learned from painful past experience that if you don't immediately get out of bed and write something down, you'll forget it, no matter how brilliant it seems at the time. For this reason, every room in the house, including the laundry room and the guest bathroom have pens and scratch paper readily available.

*  You have at least one pet named after a literary character. And it never ceases to amaze you how no one understands the reference.

Sure Signs of an Aspiring Writer

* You talk about wanting to write a book. Someday. When the kids are grown. When you've finished school. When you're retired. When you win the lottery.

Talk = Expire. Respire. Aspire.  Write = Perspire. The two are mutually exclusive.

*  You don't bother to learn about the publishing industry. You figure that when you finally write your magnum opus, the world will beat a path to your door.

Ignorance is the opiate of the unpublished.

* You badmouth current bestsellers, the state of publishing, and popular writers.

If you can't say something nice, produce something better.

You don't read. You don't have the time. You aren't interested in what's being published. All the publishers throw out there is crap anyway.

You refuse to go to class or do the assignment, but are prepared to groan and moan about never getting a diploma.


So you see, in my opinion, there is NOTHING attractive about being an "aspiring" writer. To paraphrase Yoda: Do. Or do not. But if you choose to do not, stop yapping about wanting to do.

Here's to all you writers out there. May you delete "aspiring" from your bios, 'cause you've already made it.


JH said...

Yes! Well-said, Ami! :)

Ella Schwartz said...

This is brilliant! I guess I'm not an aspiring writer after all! One of the best pep talks I've read. Thank you.

Rebecca said...

While the sentiment and the distinction are appreciated, I'm going to leave the word there for now. Doctors and lawyers get a piece of paper before they can call themselves either one, after all - I want one, too. Namely, a check. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, thank you for this! I completely laughed out loud when I read your "sure signs you're a writer," as I nodded and smiled at EVERY SINGLE ONE (minus the final point about the pet name). Namely, I think it's in the attitude. If you think of yourself as an "aspiring writer," then you're more likely to procrastinate. Whereas, if you get into the mentality of "I AM a writer," you're more likely to DO. I now know I am the writer, as I hold down a full-time job, still publish in magazines on the side, and write creatively at home. Thanks for the smile.

Ami Hendrickson said...

Johanna, Ella, RJS, & Shari,
Thanks for taking time to comment.

I didn't mention a Big Killer Reason not to use "aspiring" to describe oneself: reliable rumor has it that it makes some publishers & agents leery. (Oh noes!)

In any case, here's wishing you writing careers in which acceptances outweigh rejections by a landslide. ;)

Onward and upward!

Amber said...


At least I don't do the "aspiring writers" no-no's, that is for sure, but I'm not so sure I fit into the "writer" category, either. The great idea, though, I totally have, although I have it for other areas of my work also - LOVE the default iPhone note app for capturing these wherever I am, even right before bed. Have written entire chapters this way - for real.

And as for the characters being real, that one resonated most strongly with me, and maybe also with my idea of a "writer". Maybe there was a small part of me as an avid reader that wanted to be a writer, but mostly I never aspired to be one. It wasn't a dream for me, so I struggle with the label for myself. BUT those characters just get in my head and won't get out any way but written down, so there I go.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post! I recently went through and re-created all my bios and removed "aspiring". I was having a wrestling match in my mind about whether I could say I was "writer" when I haven't yet published. I fit into every one of your writer points (minus the named pets as I have none). My name is Morgan and I AM A WRITER (phew *wipes sweat from brow* there it's out in the open). Great post!

Ami Hendrickson said...

Amber: Here's to characters that grab us by the throats and refuse to release us until we write them real! (BTW, I have a sneaking suspicion that you ARE a "real writer," if for no other reason than that you actually write. You can't fool the muse! :P)

Morganwylie: Thanks for your kind words, and yay, you, for removing the "aspiring" albatross! I firmly believe that publication has nothing to do with whether or not one is a writer. "Bestselling author" claims rely on sales. "Writer" does not. Keep on keeping on!

Anonymous said...

So True...
My food group of choice is sourpatch kids, and of course chocolate... but mostly sourpatch kids. Unfortunately my dentist is trying to convince me to stop... She hasnt suceeded yet.
To write or not to write.