Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Can of Worms

I don’t know if you had a chance to check out Nathan Bransford’s blog yesterday, but if so…Yowzer! Nathan has a tendency to be straightforward and informal on his blog, at the same time as being wonderfully informative and educational. Did he have good intentions? I believe he did. Very few other agents spend the time and attention providing insight to unpublished authors. He has a strong track record of trying to help. So what of it?

~~Yesterday he broached a sensitive subject for writers. He asked if perhaps too many of us have our identity tied into the title, “WRITER”. Given, he’s a smart guy. He knows that a good many of his followers are aspiring novelists. As I read his words and over 350 comments, I was utterly fascinated. Someone once told me I should be a lawyer because of my ability to see the black, see the white and somehow understand it as gray. Because they said that, should I call myself a lawyer (just joking on this one)?
~~Here’s the deal, if your identity is entirely dependent on being called a writer, I think there’s a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I am deeply impassioned about writing. I do call myself a writer and I know that without writing I would not be filled with this fire and this call in my life.
~~What Nathan had to realize is that he threw that question to the wind before thousands of people probably already fighting insecurities about the craft, whether they’ve been published or paid for their writing or not. He reneged his original challenge that maybe writers are more like hobbyists. Boy, did that word have people stirred.
~~I’ve been both published and paid for my writing, but writing is not who I am. Is it an integral part of who I am? Absolutely. Would I feel shorted in some way if I were unable to ever write again? Absolutely. But because my identity is in Christ I can handle rejection. I can handle it if I’m never published again and I can handle it if someone wants to question whether writing is a hobby or a craft. Why can I handle it? Because I KNOW. That’s what makes a writer from a non-writer. You don’t need someone else to define it for you. If you go through life waiting for others to throw labels on you, get ready to be called a whole lot of things other than writer. Read this book about Punchinello if you want more insight on this.
~~One way to look at this question, as big as the Hindenburg, is for me to admit about my writing, “It’s not who I am, it’s what I love to do.” For me this doesn’t steal away the mystery, passion or impressions of the muse when I write it. When I think of things I’m passionate about, I think of what I want to be said about me at my funeral. I know, morbid…but stick with me (I know I’m not alone in thinking things like this). I want someone to stand up and share what I stood for, what I was about and what I loved and if writing weren’t mentioned in that mix would I be sad? No, I’d be dead and I wouldn’t know any better. My point is that it should mean something to you, to me, to us if we call ourselves a writer. Who cares what it means to anyone else?
~~However, if you’re a wannabe writer and you haven’t fallen in love with the craft you probably feel weird calling yourself that, but hey, it’s your own conscience you need to wrestle with. What’s it to me? But if you’re like me and you dream of putting words on the page, you dream of characters and great plot lines and tense interactions…well, then calling yourself a writer should feel natural. And again, who cares? People will judge us no matter what. WE need to know who we are. I thank my God I know who I am and continue to learn more about who that is every time I write.
~~And about the can of worms Nathan opened up, some people like to eat worms. I know I sure ate it up, reading his blog and the abundance of comments. I liked the challenge. If we don’t want to be challenged, then how can we be sure of what we stand for, who we are and even what we believe?
~~Know who you are and know it well.

~~What defines you?


  1. This is a great answer to Nathan's post, thank you! I think that a lot of people get offended by questions like Nathan's because they think he's saying they're not good writers or something silly like that. Like if it's just a hobby, you're no good at it. Well, I think they're wrong.

    I answered on Nathan's post with something along the lines of, "Defining yourself by any ONE thing is dangerous." We are not one thing or another, we are a conglomerate of things, and that's what makes us human. Saying we'd die because writing is our air is just a bit excessive in my opinion. :)

  2. I avoided the drama over there (plenty in my own home, thank you) so appreciate the wrap up. It allowed me to get a feel for the discussion w/out the hub bub. What makes me what I am? My God, my family, my art. One is not exclusive of the other -- they are beautifully intertwined.

    And, thanks for the complement on the photo. It has been 18 sweet years of marraige and I am truly blessed!

  3. Great insight, Wendy! Such deep thoughts! God gifts us each with varying abilities and talents. He expects us to use those talents for him. That's what should define us, how we use what he's given for his glory. Ultimately we'll have to stand before him (like the men in the parable of the talents) and give an account for what we did with what he's given us (including time, family, spiritual gifts, and other gifts).

    I'm truly enjoying the interaction that we get to have every day through our blogs! I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement! Thanks!

  4. A very thoughtful post, Wendy. :-)

    My simple litmus test-defining question: Becca, are you content writing? Yes. I work and work and work, hence I'm a writer.

    Simple as that.

  5. Wendy, I'm not familiar with Nathan, but I thank you for bringing this concept to my attention. It's so true that we can define ourselves by any one thing, but I think it's only natural that when we're wearing a certain hat, we tend to ramble off the most relevent thing to it that aids in defining who we are. When I'm in the kitchen, for instance, I might say that I'm a "family type cook", when I'm in the gardens and talking to a nursery owner I may define myself as an "amateur gardener". So, obviously, when I'm speaking with book professionals or other writers, I'm going to define myself as a "writer". In neither of those cases am I ever only the one thing. But I draw one particular aspect out of my life that seems pertinent to whom I'm talking with or the situation I'm currently in. It's dangerous to be narrow-minded, and think that those who define themselves to you aren't a whole lot more. Not only dangerous, but rather ignorant in my opinion, too.

    I doubt that Nathan meant it in such a way, though.

  6. Ooops, I meant to say that we can't define ourselves by any one thing. We are people, after all with many, many hats to wear in any given day.

  7. I have not read Nathan's post, but I will check it out.

    I think there is an important place between getting published and not. When people read your story (friends, family, strangers) and they comment then the story has some life.

    I guess that I feel like a writer because I have written a novel that people have read.

  8. Lady, we hold similar opinions. Good for you for commenting on the post.

    Tess, I hear ya about the drama. Beautifully intertwined indeed!

    Jody, for his glory, yes! I am understanding a new kind of friendship through blogging.

    Rebecca, I like how you involved the amount of work you do in your decision.

    Eileen, we ARE people, aren't we? :D

    Dave, I know what you mean about that place in between published and not. I still think you can call yourself a writer and not be published. But I get your point. I also agree having someone read your work helps bring it to life in a powerful way.

    Congratulations on the novel. I also have written one that was read by five cold readers and is in good hands right now...I remain hopeful. I confess, I was secretly pleased when some of the cold readers said my manuscript made them cry...Why? B/c it had impact, so I'm hearin' you. Curious too about your novel.

    ~ Wendy

  9. Very nice post. :) I'm like you: writing is an integral part of who I am, but it isn't all of me. I went through 4-5 years without writing at all and lived. I'm still not sure how I did that, but I did. ;-) It's part of my identity (whether or not I ever get published), but not all of it.

    Maybe the trouble comes from people needing to categorize things. People tend to like to do that, and perhaps have taken it to an extreme. I think, in general, people are too complicated to be slotted into one category (besides gender).

  10. I'd like to say I identify myself first and foremost as a follower of Christ.... and although I do - I'm not sure this is evident to the people who surround me. Isn't that sad? I'm off to go read Nathan's blog now.

  11. Awesome post. What defines me? More than my writing-who I am to others, to my daughter to my husband and who I am in Christ as I live my life. I love to write--I always have--and as you said, I will write whether I get more published or not.

  12. Lovely post. I agree with your sentiments.

    I feel that writing is less about me and more about what I have to offer. I want it to touch people, to make them laugh, to make them think about something in a new way. That's why I constantly prowl for writing tips and for ways to improve my writing.

  13. This is a thoughtful post and a debate I often pose to my writing students. Too many of us put way too much emphasis on labels and identity, forgetting who we truly are.
    I've been writing professionally for more than 20 years; am a member of American Society of Professional Journalists and Authors. But I still wrestle with what it means to call oneself a "writer." I do know that a surefire way to induce writer's block is to make the writing life too precious.


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