Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aftermath of Writing Class - Just Pretending

Here's the thing I can't get out of my head from writing class last night.  It might just be me, but it's really bugging me, so I'll say it out loud - silently and just with these quiet words, you know what I mean.

We had a new instructor/facilitator last night.  I tend to give everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt several times over.  But one thing she said really stuck with me.  It was something like, "You can pretend you are working when you write."  Did I hear that wrong?  We should pretend we are writers that are working at our writing when we write?  I'm sure she didn't mean it like that. I hope she didn't.

I know that many of us are just there for fun and camaraderie and to write the way you would go to pottery class and enjoy making a vase or something without having any intention of being an artist that sells her work.  But I know for sure that several of us are very serious about our writing.  If we are writing poetry week after week, day after day, we are writers.  If we are diligently working on short stories or novels, we are writers.  We aren't pretending.  Would a group of men joining together to share chapters of novels they are working on ever say out loud that the best thing to do is pretend to be writers?!

The thing with writing is the paycheck is deferred.  Any novels we write today, we cannot reasonably expect to be published for more than a year - from what I have read, eight to ten years is reasonable before you find someone to publish your first novel and start getting paid.  I accept that.  I accept that I may never get paid for the first two novels I wrote over the last six months.  I understand that my next novel will be better, and then next one after that will be even better than the last.  Eventually I will get published.  I have absolute faith in that.  But only if I keep working on it - only if I keep the faith in myself and don't give up. 

It's the same concept as artists that paint every day hoping to someday sell their work.  They have to keep working on their craft diligently, improving their paintings as they go, until eventually they will sell one.  When they paint the first painting, they are no less of a painter than when they paint the one that someone finally buys.  I can't imagine telling a serious painter at the beginning of their career that they should or are pretending.

When people are in college, they are students.  It is their job.  They don't get paid.  Their paycheck is deferred until they get the job they went to college to get.  No one tells them they should pretend to be students.  They are students. 

As writers, it takes a long time and a lot of work - not just coming up with an initial story line but also taking criticism and making edits until our written words are as perfect as we can make them.  We know in our minds that we may never sell a book, a poem, a story, a screenplay.  But we persevere. 

Or we let this concept that we are pretending take hold of us and we stop.

I think the people in my writing group that write novels (or poems or whatever) and take that work seriously should take themselves seriously as writers too.  And it doesn't matter what our personality type is.  For me, I am obsessively goal oriented - it happens to make me push myself to produce, but doesn't make me more of a writer than someone who writes whenever they feel like it or at a slower pace. 

My writing class friends, I know you all are amazing writers.  I have heard and/or read your words.  I will absolutely buy your stories when you are ready to sell them. 

Let us not pretend to be writers; let's be writers.


  1. Hmmm. I'm reaching back to remember the comment. It didn't stick with me the way it stuck with you, but here's what I'm thinking: First of all, I'm sure if she read your words, she would agree 100% with you! I'm thinking it was a quick off the cuff comment that meant, "If you are having trouble thinking of yourself as a 'real' writer, then maybe 'pretending it's a job for which you get paid' will help you get to that point." When you really think about it, you build a much stronger case for a way to view the process!

  2. That's good to know you didn't remember the comment - it probably just hit me the wrong way.

  3. Well, you do have a good point!