I have this little problem I like to call the Inner Infernal. Okay. Some days it’s not a “little” problem. Some days it’s a big one that stomps into my nook, knocks me out of my chair, breaks my keyboard in two, and proceeds to make a royal mess of the place.
After battling writer’s block for three years, I’ve developed one hell of an Inner Infernal. Or as Morgan calls it, an Inner Asshole. It’s kinda like picking up a pot-bellied slob who sits in front of the TV all day drinking cheap beer and eating potato chips — when he’s not practicing his favorite hobby of verbal abuse. Yeah. Now try having that in your head.
When I was at my former writer’s community, which was a double-edged sword in that it was good for me in some ways and toxic in others, I wrote on a regular basis. Not every day, but very close to that, and usually when I wrote, it was between 1k – 3k.
I don’t have progress records of the past three years like I do of Summer 2002, but I jumped between many projects before getting more than two or three chapters ino them, along with writing intermittant short stories. Daily writing? Hardly close. More like writing every other week or so. (Or prewriting, which, while important, doesn’t “count” for me.) And not any significant amount of words, either, at least not when compared to what I used to do.
Enter the Inner Asshole. “You’re not a Real Writer,” he booms. “If you were a Real Writer, you’d care enough about the story to write it.” Nevermind that even just trying to write resulted in visceral pain. My fiance can attest to the sheer number of times he listened to me talk about my fears regarding writing.
No, because I wasn’t writing every day — or at least a good number of days — then I wasn’t a “Real Writer” anymore and I might as well just give up and quit.
Real nice critter, eh?
This was further enforced by wandering around the net and reading articles, interviews, or blog entries where published authors would say things like, “If you want to be a writer, the most important thing is to write every day.”
Now, I understand their point, and it’s a good one. If you write regularly, you’re more likely to stick with something rather than letting it fall by the wayside. Words flow more easily when you’re writing regularly — at least, that’s true for me.
At the same point, it served to fuel my own doubts and fears. If I can’t write, then how can I call myself a writer? What am I, then? A wannabe? A failure? What?
For me, writing isn’t just something I do. It’s something I am. It’s a calling, as much a vocation as a priest called to serve God. To turn away from it is to turn away from myself. The intrusive self-doubts and thoughts that I wasn’t a Real Writer and should just give up left me very near suicidal at a few points.
I think it’s important that a writer writes, yes … but I think it’s far more important that the goals are truly there and that the writer is working to achieve them. In my case, psychological issues (discussed here) affected my ability to write. Nutshell version for those who don’t want to read the long posts (I don’t blame you): I had a deep-seated need for “approval” and “permission” that I didn’t realise affected my writing as well as my personal life. Since realising its existence, I’ve been better able to combat it.
Some people argue that writer’s block is only an excuse blatted by lazy writers who procrastinate too much or otherwise don’t have the motivation to attach butt to chair and bang out the words. I don’t call that “writer’s block,” I call that “chronic laziness,” and I think it’s dangerous to confuse the two. Writer’s block is like depression — it’s not something that goes away on its own, and it’s not something that should be ignored/invalidated. Telling someone with a true case of writer’s block that they’re just making excuses is like telling someone who’s clinically depressed that they’re just doing it for the attention. Not a good idea.
When you get right down to it, while it’s certainly an important factor, I don’t think that irregular wordcounts invalidate somebody’s identity as a writer. If they’re writing, and they’re trying even if it seems to be an uphill battle … then they’re writers, enough said.
What do y’all think? What makes a “Real Writer” to you?