What makes a writer a writer? I have been asking myself this for some time now; I’d estimate about 18 months, give or take.
Why am I asking this? Because at that time, 18 months ago, I decided to be a writer. But is that simply all it takes to be one? The conscious choice?
People will ask me, ”What do you do?” My first thought screams, ”I am a writer!” But then I second guess myself.
I end up standing there, looking all awkward and unsure of myself; I figure, ”How am I a writer? That is ridiculous; I don’t have some Ivy League degree in Literature, I dropped out of High School for crying out loud!”
”I have never been published, not my novel (which is all but complete), and not so much as even an article for some obscure website; so why should I proclaim it from the roof tops that lowly old unsuccessful me is a writer?”
A couple of responses can be predicted from me when I am asked what I do. One is, ”I am between jobs at the moment. I just do enough to get by in odd little jobs here and there.”
The other possible response I may choose to summon is, ”I fancy myself a writer but…you know what they say: writing is just a hobby until you are acknowledged.”
Maybe I am asking the wrong question here; maybe I should be asking: why in the world would I doubt I am a writer?
I look at my novel and no one has seen it-not even my closest family or friends, but already I believe it is the greatest thing I have ever done. It is completely irrelevant to me as to how others will receive it.
As I began writing, all I could see was this cliche dribble that a million dime store writers could regurgitate in a week, but then something started to happen.
I start to become afraid, because I notice that my characters, good and bad, are…me! Their choices are identical to mine and to each other’s, just their deeds change the results.
Their goals are not so much different from mine or each other’s either. Not one is selfish while the other selfless, and the bad guys in their own way are as equally selfless, even driven by a greater good.
The only real difference is that the bad guys will do what they know is wrong in order to get the outcome they desire: their greater good.
As I traverse the chasm between the classic villain and the romantic hero, I feel I have, in a sense, humanized the battle between good and evil.
Seeing the Dreamer become the Dream, as the good becomes the bad and back again; both extremes are right there, within our reach, to grasp or reject, and it can be done as easily as turning a page.
As I look in revulsion at those of savage deeds, or those who lack in conviction, can I not see that if not by some grace, which I continue to prove unworthy of in my revulsion, there go I?
Is that how a writer creates his story and how an actor embodies a role? But more than that, is it the basic truth of life, to decide if your ends justify the means?
For the creator to buy into one’s own creation, one must see oneself in the words, that the Dreamer and the Dream are one, that every word of darkness and light are a piece of one’s soul, lay bare in nakedness.
So now, not knowing if I am speaking literally about writing or if I am speaking metaphorically about life, perhaps a little both, in my newfound confusion I conclude:
I am a writer, not by virtue of some Literature degree that I do not have, not by virtue of acceptance by some dime store or cult website that I do not have, but because my words are not just a part of me, they are me.