Writer Says You Have to Write to Be a Writer; Tumblr Gets Upset

Comments

1
I think feel good inclusiveness has jumped the shark when you get people saying things to the effect of "just because I'm not able to physically or mentally write anything doesn't mean I'm not a writer!"
2
Writers know the difference between "writer's" and "writers."
3
The moral of this story: never, ever engage with the tumblr call-out brigade.
4

Detroit is offering free homes to writers.

http://writeahouse.com/

5
I'm reading Kraken right now. I wouldn't want to be in China's head when he's not working on a story.
6
Bendis Daredevil > Miller Daredevil
7
A writer is someone who writes, just like an artist is someone who creates art. There are no requirements about amount or quality to be a writer, just to be a good writer or a prolific writer. Although one of my favorite writers, Douglas Adams, would sometimes write about how much he hated writing and would procrastinate and have to be forced to get it done.
8
The elephant in the room is that - Writers are Overrated.
9
Everyone is a writer the same way everyone is a DJ.
10
#7

Until the Web, being a writer was defined by most people as being published.

That is writing or broadcasting text to many readers...was determined (other than with vanity presses) by who wormed their way through the hierarchy and got ok'd to be printed by giant presses.

Now everyone is a writer who makes a Facebook post or a SLOG comment. And they are more of a writer than the previously published writers in that, a Facebook post is available to one billion people. J.D. Salinger, when initially published had a maximum audience of the book purchasing public of the English speaking world of 1950. What was that...a few million maybe?
11
Do I think that one has to have written something in order to be a writer? Yes. Everyday as a compulsion? No. Do I think that "professional" writers tend to be wealthy before they became "professionals", as well as overwhelmingly being white and/or male? Yes. Writing professionally and privilege are related.

As for writing being equated with mental illness, I think some very prolific writers are as prolific as they are due to some mental illness. Some, like Bendis, are hacky as shit.
12
I think feel good inclusiveness has jumped the shark when you get people saying things to the effect of "just because I'm not able to physically or mentally write anything doesn't mean I'm not a writer!"

Yes but that's pretty much how liberalism operates in the USA now. We live in the 'everyone gets a gold star' culture in which passing 'judgment' is quickly labeled racist/ableist/sexist yada yada yada.
13
At least the Tumblr thread has them all writing now. Maybe it was that until now none of them had anything to be outraged about.
14
@2 a surprising number of pros are beyond-terrible when it comes to grammar and spelling in extemporaneous writing. 'swhy they have editors, I guess.
15
Well, I suppose if you can be a sign language interpreter without knowing sign language, you ought to be able to be a writer who doesn't write.

Seems kinda stupid, though.
16
I think we've hit the outer edge of the 'privilege' conversation. People who succeed in creative endeavors are people who put in the time. This is the case in every culture and every context globally. Sorry.
17
The next time somebody points out my laziness, I hope I have the wit to remember to use the word "neurotypical" in my sheepish retort.
18
@17
God be with you. If I may speak for the rest of Slog, we all hope you will have the wit to remember that. And if you do, and we hope you do, leave out "sheepish retort", that just makes you sound like a retard. But don't mind my criticism, note comment 12, "everyone gets a gold star" with liberalism.
19
I can't get over that "ableist" comment at all. Anyone want to give this person a copy of My Left Foot? Or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? Anything by Charles Bukowski or Harvey Pekar? Or any of the dissidents who wrote novels in their minds, waiting until they had the safety to transcribe everything?

I get it, a lot of the talk about all writes needing to write with intensity and drive at all times no matter what is kind of hyperbolic, but if someone really has the drive to write, by god they will make the time.
20
There are people who like to be writers, and people who like to write. The former often resent the latter.
21
Anyone who thinks they're a writer, and yet hasn't been able to write anything of (even personal) significance in SIX OR SEVEN YEARS is not a fucking writer; they're a fucking dilettante wannabee poser, period.

Writing is more than imagination; that only gets you, maybe, half way there. If you don't express it in some form that can be experienced by someone else, then you're just making up stories inside your own head and you're delusional to believe you're anything more than that. Is someone who imagines pretty pictures, but never puts them on canvas a painter? Is someone who hears beautiful melodies, but never plays them a musician? Fuck no!

This is simply the logical end-result of the hyper-democratization of the Internet: people feel they have the right to call themselves by any title they want, but without feeling any sort of obligation to produce the very thing(s) that give the title its meaning.
22
I'm pretty sure this type of frenzied discussion is how Rome fell, but I expect they had more fun on the way down.
23
I think "...This post is ableist as fuck. Some weeks, I’m lucky if I can get myself in the shower at least once. But I’m expected to write EVERY DAY?! Apparently only neurotypicals are allowed to be writers.
Fuck that and fuck you."

Eh, that's a parody account.

The rest are, honestly, that stupid. If you have for seven years not written anything and are still making excuses, you're not a writer until you start writing.
24
This thread has the capability to be the longest ever thread on Slog. Let's go writers aka typists!

I remember the days when mostly women had jobs as 'Typists.' We've come a long way, Men!
25
I don't know how to sing or play an instrument. How dare you say I'm not a musician! I listen to music every day, then decide I'm too tired to learn an instrument.
26
@25
Join a drum circle. It's a weird cultural phenom where I can make fun of it one second then extoll its virtues the next. Even if you're a war vet with your hands blown off, your stubby arms can still pound a beat.
27
I too am one of those writers who doesn't actually write. I think about it a lot, and maybe someday I will sit down and actually do it. But in the meantime, by golly, I'm still a writer!

My brother-in-law is a major-league baseball player. He doesn't actually play baseball, but he thinks about it a lot, and one day he may just do it (when MLB starts drafting 49-year-old second basemen). But he's still a ballplayer. So there!
28
Posting a blog post on a free weekly about a "Tumblr" flame-war regarding what may be or may not be a "writer" or a "writer's writer", or even a "writer'ses writer's writer" is the nadir of culture as a whole. We may as well just ban sarcasm by legislative edict and return to spray-painting our hands on the cave walls with bone-straws. We're done, its over. The Internet is doomed. Post-nuclear war is our only solution...the rising seas won't get us fast enough.
29
I'm sure this has already been said but sheesh, blah blah blah.

There are just loads of people milling about, and they've been brought up on movies and TV and novels and REALISM so why not me?

I'm a firestarter, twisted firestarter.

Because I spun around and lit a fucking candle.

Be whatever you want.

Money is what you do the rest of the time
30
I'm a professional musical theatre actor in NYC (like, a real one...who actually gets paid to perform fairly regularly), and these responses sound so much like people I know who say they're actors. There's a huge contingent of folks in NYC who are "professional actors" who haven't performed or even auditioned in years. Really, the vast majority of them are just people who don't know what they want to do, so they wait tables or temp and tell people that they're actors so they can feel better about themselves.

Having said that, there are also plenty of out-of-work actors who work hard, take classes, audition constantly, etc...and I have no problem with those types saying they're actors, even if they haven't gotten paid to perform in a while (or even a long time). But someone who hasn't seen the inside of an audition room in years and still says he's an actor? Um, no. Same thing with these writers; If you're taking the time to write, but haven't been published yet? Fine, I have no problem with you saying you're a writer. If you (like the letter writer) haven't written anything in 7 years? You are not a writer.
31
I'm one of the world's best painters, but I've never put anything to canvas. You'll just have to imagine what you're missing.
32
I cook the basics, and I have a long way to go to call myself I'm a cook. However, thanks to Bethany's recipe's, I can say I do learn something by reading Slog.
33
Props to Bendis. I've been stuck trying to write for years (am doing it right now) but lots of life stress holds me back. The difference is, I didn't call or imagine myself as a writer when I wasn't able to write. That's all Bendis is saying. Our society's obsession with the free market at all costs prevents a lot of people from having the time to do anything much less to write, but you still can't call yourself a writer when you aren't.
34
I have shown photos, had my photos published, and been paid for it. I don't devote myself to the craft in any way beyond it being an occasional distraction.

I read, knit, sing, and write. I do these things almost everyday. I've never been paid for any of it.

What am I?
35
The word "privilege" is quickly going the way of "grunge" & "hippie": used as a lazy pejorative w/o context, and soon will have no useful meaning whatsoever.
36
@34: Someone with hobbies.
37
@36

That's a great answer!
I was thinking it sort of depended on where she sang most often. Was she a car singer? or a shower (cliche) singer? sings in a band? sings for old people at the rest home? Basically I need just a tad more info before I take a guess. But yeah, "someone with hobbies" is a very good guess. I wouldn't be surprised if you're right.
38
"It ain't art til it sells." ~Hunter Thompson
39
Serious question for Paul - a pretty young though far from naive writer kinda guy: is he wrong??
40
@38:

Much as I love the work of the late Mr. Duke, I must respectfully disagree. Van Gogh is the perfect example: never made a dime off his art while he was alive, but the fact that his work now sells for tens of millions of dollars doesn't mean it was crap before somebody decided to buy the first one.

Making money isn't the ultimate criteria in this instance; actually doing the thing you self-identify with IS. Van Gogh earned the right to be labeled a painter because he fucking painted, not because he made a living at it.
42
It's the same shit in programming too. "What do you mean I have to write code in my spare time to be a good programmer, how dare you suggest the shitty outdated stuff I do for work isn't enough blah blah blah..." Welp, hate to break it to you dude, but you are going to get eaten alive by the people who practice harder than you.
43
This sort of thing reminds me of writers (or musicians or other creative types) who never had more than one ____ in them, but were determined to see themselves as Important Artists.

Take Lucy Grealy as an example. She wrote something pretty typical for a writer who doesn't have any original ideas: a memoir. She got very touchy with her readers who saw her book for what it was, a memoir that they had good reason to identify with as survivors of other diseases and maladies. Couldn't they see that she was an Important Artist? Well, she never had more than one book in her (despite a generous advance), so apparently she wasn't.

That said, people can view themselves however they wish. The rest of us just don't have to take them seriously.

@40,

Van Gogh not selling his paintings while he was alive is a myth. He did sell his paintings, they just weren't valued enough by his buyers to lift him out of the life of a starving artist.
44
Tumblr sjw's flipped their lids over trivial bullshit??? GWUUUHHHH???
45
@2

Writers write then read, then edit, then write, then read, then edit...not always all of these and not always in that order. One has to make time for angst and liquor - lots and lots.

You, sir, are not a writer.

You're a critic...of grammar. Your second period class awaits you.
46
The truth hurts.
47
Wow, this Bendis guy is a douche.

No, swearing at him like the sampled posts do won't help. But I'll have you (and Bendis) know that plenty of professional writers don't write every single day. If he never experienced a writer's block he probably writes some kind of pointless drivel that I would never want to read anyway.

Besides, you know who in reality is not a writer? Someone who has no idea about proper punctuation, capitalization and grammar, like this Bendis guy. I bet half of his writing is completely rewritten by his editors, but he still claims full credit. A real writer barely needs editors at all.

Also, good job at a misleading and biased title, article author.
48
I'm a professional writer. I get paid to write publicity and marketing stuff - and then I write plays for which I rarely get paid. So I figure that makes me a professional. Do I write every day? No. Do I write a whole hell of a lot? Yes. Do I think that someone who hasn't written in 5 or 6 years is still a writer? No. I do not think you have to be published or produced to be a writer, but I do think you have to be constantly writing and working on your craft to call yourself a writer. I can think about running marathons all day long, but if I'm not actively training and running, I'm never going to be a marathon runner. Writing is about discipline. Someone once asked me how I wrote a full length play on top of working my 40+ hour a week job? I told them, I got on the computer every night after dinner and wrote for at least an hour or two. Pretty soon, I had a full lengthy play. People can make excuses about work, family, writers block, etc. But if you do not have the discipline to write, you are not a writer. And that is OK. Most people are not writers.
49
It's in his head??? Well, that didn't work for the teacher when she ask for homework to be passed forward and it doesn't work outside the 10th grade either.

Points for insecurity on the part of those that feel they have to validate themselves for an imaginary part of their existence.
50
@43, I'm not sure using Lucy Grealy as an example is entirely fair. She spiralled into drug abuse after being prescribed Oxy for pain management post-surgery. And later died of a heroin overdose. Before that, however, she published more than just Autobiography of a Face. Although I haven't read any of her other work and can't speak to its merits. But she didn't write just the one thing. I'd say she had earned the right to call herself a writer. Perhaps not a Important Artist but definitely a writer.
51
You know what's the received idea that kills a lot of prospective creators dead, is the idea that everything that you put down on paper or wherever has to be GENIUS, that you have to create GREAT ART RIGHT AWAY or you might as well not bother. I have a dear friend who wants to write but doesn't, because she only wants to write MASTERPIECES and doesn't want to waste time, say, keeping a blog or just writing for herself. She wants to write the OPUS and immediately ascend to Olympus.
52
In my head, I'm a professional bass player. What's that? Play my instrument? Bah, I'm far too busy for THAT.
53
But in my head, I've written entire platinum albums.
54
@2: No, copy editors know the difference between "writers" and "writer's". There are plenty of fine writers out there with a shaky grasp of grammar and mechanics.

@51: As an amateur musician who plays a lot of gigs and occasionally even gets paid for them, I come across this attitude a lot, and it bums me out. I can't tell you the number of people I've met who say "Oh, I'd love to play with a group but I'm not good enough" or "I stopped playing when I realized I wasn't very good." No matter how talented you are, pursuing music or writing or painting or what have you is much more about putting the time in than being gifted. If you keep working at it, you'll get better. Getting hung up on being "good" will only get in the way of your art, and isn't the pleasure of creating what it's all about? Hell, Dan Brown is a TERRIBLE writer and look how far he's gotten!
55
do real writers write when they're pooping? i think they probably do because they write all the time. so that's the test - do you write while you poop? then you're a writer.

but here's a mind blower - i'm pooping right now! and i'm not a writer!
56
.....aaand scene!

Good work everyone, I think we've at last reached the end of this topic. Champagne & backrubs all around!
57
Yeah, you don't need to be paid for what you're doing (what a capialist way to think) but you definitely to be actively doing what you claim to be. I'm an actor (who happens to get paid a lot for my work) but those in between times I'm auditioning, reading plays, participating in theater fundraisers and generally thinking about how I can better my craft. So, I get to call myself an actor.

Ten years ago I called myself a fencer. I was fencing competitively and practicing at the club 20 hours a week or so. Now? Except for a few times I have not picked up a fencing foil in 6 years. So now I refer to myself as someone who FORMERLY fenced.
58
To be a better painter, you have to paint a lot.

To be a better basketball player, you have to play basketball a lot.

To be a better photographer, you have to take a lot of photos.

And to be a better writer, you have to write a lot. Not necessarily every day, but a lot. It doesn't even really matter much what you write, you'll get better with practice, just like you would with any other activity. If you haven't written anything in seven years, you are not a writer, no matter how much you imagine you are.
59
It strikes me as odd, given all the other things everyone is talking about here, that writing presents a barrier to someone who wants to do it. Playing in a band requires other people, kinda expensive instruments and a space to make noise, as does playing many sports. Even painting requires some outlay of cash/resources. But writing is somewhat unique in that all that is required is a method for capturing the ideas. pen and paper, the keyboard device used to write the online reply, hell even a micro-cassette recorder so you can narrate while driving home from work.

I enjoy writing most of the time. I do a lot of it for work, I occasionally do it for fun, and I even get paid for it from time to time. I would never consider myself a 'writer.'
60
@47/48: Neither of you are "writers" as the discussion was targeting.

The question was not "how can I get into marketing?", "how can I be a technical writer", etc.
61
@59: It's impressive how many excuses one can make when the barrier is so low.

@51: Exactly why writers endorse writing as much as one can, every day. Persons who believe as your friend does never make anything of worth.
62
And no amount of "but it's unfair to say that!" will alter that people who do, do. People who talk about doing don't.
63
They do say that every artist has a thousand terrible drawings in him or herself before they get good. I am up to #815.
64
It's actually a fine line between being a writer who is paid professionally for their work, being a writer who writes every day and is either unable to or unwilling to try and sell their work and a writer who thinks like a writer (or thinks they are a writer) but doesn't actually write anything down on paper (or computer screen).

Sorry, but someone who has writer's block for 7 years is not a writer, because they haven't written or thought like a writer. If that person puts pen to paper tomorrow and writes a song, a poem, a short story, then they are a writer again.

Based on the phrasing of the question and the answer, I agree with Bendis. A writer writes, it's not about selling it or earning a living off it, it's about the act of DOING. We have forgotten that thinking you are does not make you that thing, only the doing does.
65
It's actually a fine line between being a writer who is paid professionally for their work, being a writer who writes every day and is either unable to or unwilling to try and sell their work and a writer who thinks like a writer (or thinks they are a writer) but doesn't actually write anything down on paper (or computer screen).

Sorry, but someone who has writer's block for 7 years is not a writer, because they haven't written or thought like a writer. If that person puts pen to paper tomorrow and writes a song, a poem, a short story, then they are a writer again.

Based on the phrasing of the question and the answer, I agree with Bendis. A writer writes, it's not about selling it or earning a living off it, it's about the act of DOING. We have forgotten that thinking you are does not make you that thing, only the doing does.
66
I don't have a driver's license, but I'm totally a Formula 1 racer!
67
I'm a proud dilettante when it comes to writing. I'm not at all offended to hear that writing something occasionally doesn't qualify me as a "writer".
68
I have hobbies the way that James Franco has hobbies.
69
@67: Writing because it makes you happy is great! But I imagine the persons most offended on tumblr are the sort of poseurs who only call themselves that to appear interesting, self-ascribed professional and what they "know in their soul" aside, they can't even have a hobby for personal enrichment, it's got to be something to find external validation through.

These twits are mostly horrified because they're being called out on their shallow bullshit-drenched identity.
70
@68: Shouldn't we all?

I'm just saying that an occasional distraction is not really a career, nor an identity. Yes a person who takes photographs is abstractly a "photographer", published or not, but not in the same sense that someone who devotes their life to the craft of photography would be. There are multiple conflated definitions that imply different levels of devotion and interest.
71
@70 - I think it is very interesting that everyone in this thread that has disclosed some level of creativity/generativity has been dismissed or been given a label by people who have never seen/heard the product! Typical blog comment cynicism? Probably.
72
@71- @69 was agreeing with me. I'll be a writer if I ever buckle down, start writing everyday, start sending my stuff out to publishers, etc... Writing a few pages a month is what a dilettante does, and while the term is usually pejorative I don't see anything wrong with it. My dad is a professional artist, he makes almost all his money that way. It requires not just producing art but constant hustling. Part of the reason I haven't tried to make writing a career is because I want more stability and less work.

The problem I'm seeing is that people aren't satisfied with their lives and want to claim some sort of respectable title. And sadly the culture doesn't see "retail clerk" as a respectable title, though retail clerks, food preparers, etc... do more for society than most artists ever will. We live in a culture where everyone is expected to have big goals, big dreams, to be somebody. That kind of thinking is a cancer. It's why people buy stupidly big TVs and SUVs and vote like they're going to be rich next year.
73
I don't understand why any offense was taken.

"I don't devote myself to the craft in any way beyond it being an occasional distraction" does not indicate that you incorporate photography into your identity or have much interest in the profession. The advice being given was that if you wanted a career in a creative profession, constant work towards mastery is the best way you can achieve that goal.

Nobody's stopping you from calling yourself a photographer, but if you're not taking photographs regularly, it's not really an accurate statement.
74
@73 There's people on Tumblr who think that Social Justice means nobody has the right to ever contradict or criticize you.
75
@74: I'm sure they lean heavily towards the Otherkin-brony orientation.

Really though, I see my complaints here as the opposite of cynicism. Write! Paint! Make a stupid wub wub dubstep track! Code an app! More doing, less talking about doing when you "get around to it". You'll never have the time. I see far too many people I love (including myself) relying on opportunities that don't exist. No external force is going to make me what I want to be, you've gotta self-start that.
76
In my head I've won the Indy 500, cured cancer, cleaned my bathroom, and traveled back in time to save Lincoln. Now I'm a writer too.
77
I put a band aid on my daughter the other day. Guess I'm a doctor now. People who are offended by his comments need to get over themselves.
78
The culture of glorified perpetual victim-hood and narcissism on Tumblr is terribly depressing and seems to be getting worse by the year. The atmosphere on that site creates an echo chamber where people feel justified in their laziness and use their perceived oppression or disadvantages in life as an excuse at every turn. Anyone that dares imply that they can improve their lives or better themselves are people, even people with those same disadvantages, is always met with this kind on vitriolic dog-piling.
Tumblr is quickly becoming a place where the people who can't be bothered go to wallow in mediocrity and blog spitefully about their peers that actually bother to put in the time and hard slog it takes to get good at something.
It's kind of ironic that most of the people that insisted they have no time to write and how very dare he suggest such a thing, still have the time to maintain their own Tumblr blogs, read through posts by other people and leave scathing replies to them. If you have time to do that, you have time to open Word and write a paragraph a day of your story to earn that title of "writer" that you apparently crave. But they won't, because it's difficult to write your own stories and most of them are too lazy to even try.
79
The culture of glorified perpetual victim-hood and narcissism on Tumblr is terribly depressing and seems to be getting worse by the year. The atmosphere on that site creates an echo chamber where people feel justified in their laziness and use their perceived oppression or disadvantages in life as an excuse at every turn. Anyone that dares imply that they can improve their lives or better themselves are people, even people with those same disadvantages, is always met with this kind on vitriolic dog-piling.
Tumblr is quickly becoming a place where the people who can't be bothered go to wallow in mediocrity and blog spitefully about their peers that actually bother to put in the time and hard slog it takes to get good at something.
It's kind of ironic that most of the people that insisted they have no time to write and how very dare he suggest such a thing, still have the time to maintain their own Tumblr blogs, read through posts by other people and leave scathing replies to them. If you have time to do that, you have time to open Word and write a paragraph a day of your story to earn that title of "writer" that you apparently crave. But they won't, because it's difficult to write your own stories and most of them are too lazy to even try.
80
I call myself an astronaut. I'm in space everyday, dreaming about becoming a writer.

I call myself a firetruck. When I pee, I think about the fire in mine loins, burning for foreign sluts I shall never meet. Nor Meat.