So what is a ‘writer’ anyway?

I’m bouncing off MIKE DURAN once again.

I’d like to ask, just what is a ‘writer’ anyway? What do people mean when they say that? Novelist? Poet? Playwright? Essayist? Blogger? (No, Twitter doesn’t count)

Extending it further for Christians: what does it mean to be “called” to be a writer?

We need to hone this thought.

Now I believe everyone has a responsibility to communicate clearly, both vocally and with the written word. No, not everyone will have flair, or command of vocabulary or sense of humor, but literacy means expressing yourself in a coherent manner. That includes on paper too.

Being a member of writing groups, I hear the plea “I want to be a writer!” all the time. Now call me simple but writers write. If you write, by definition you’re a writer.

Do people really mean:
I want to be recognized, recompensed?
Have major publishing houses in a bidding war over my next project?
Do they mean “I want to be a good storyteller just like…(fill in the blank)”?

We have to define our terms and be honest with our deeper objectives.

Carrying this to the issue of ‘calling’ I wonder if people aren’t really asking for a guarantee of some sort. Like getting God to give them the ‘blow-the-doors-off-the-competition’ story as well as sign off on a three-book deal with movie rights and foreign market options.

Honestly… I want that too. But I’m not holding my breath. Remember the definition of writing is:

writ·ing (rtng)
1. The act of one who writes.
2. Written form: Put it in writing.
3. Handwriting; penmanship.
4. Something written, especially:
a. Meaningful letters or characters that constitute readable matter.
b. A written work, especially a literary composition.
5. The occupation or style of a writer.

So first of all, if I call myself a writer, then that’s what I need to do. Write stuff. Period. Second, if I’m asserting on some level my God has given me the skill and story, and the command and opportunity to write it down, then that’s what I’d better do. I’m supposed to obey to the best of my abilities. Results are up to Him.

That might trample on some fantasies, but this is the bottom line. If you insist on adding the “vocation” or ‘calling’ concept into the mix, then you’re painted in an even tighter corner: Writers write. Christian writers write what God gives them. Anything else if out of your purview.

Of course this discussion throws all manner of interesting things into the light: Motive, Discerning the Creative Impulse, Developing and Directing the talent. Mark Twain noted “Bad poetry is worst of all sincere” so there’s the whole issue of sincerity without substance to consider, but I think they’re all secondary concerns that will be answered as we pursue the primary task of WRITING.

You might want to be a novelist but eventually realize you’re a better poet. Or playwright. Or essayist. If you keep at it you might discover story-telling isn’t your thing: watercolors are. Or stained glass. Or boat-building.

The critical thing is to keep at it until you find the avenue that best fits your style, skill and God-given creative inclinations. Get there, and that will be far more fulfilling than monetary success.

And bring glory to the One who loves you and made you that way in the first place.

5 Replies to “So what is a ‘writer’ anyway?”

  1. Really a great write. You have the talent for sure. You peg me perfectly, however. I want to be a very well-known writer and having people bid outrageous amounts for my blog. How did you know?

  2. I remember when being an author actually meant something. When you would tell someone you were an author, they would look amazed and ask questions. In today’s environment, the response is always, “Oh really? Well my brother, mother, boyfriend, yada yada is an author also.

    1. Yep. I hear you. I’m self-pubbed, so I can’t complain too loud, but there’s certainly a glut of ‘authors’. Here’s hoping market forces thin the herd before overpopulation kills the entire species.

  3. I guess for me the acceptance of being “a writer” has taken some time.

    I like to think that, regardless of my publication status, I am still a writer. I write every day. When I’m not using a pen or a keyboard I’m using my brain and that far-off expression in my eyes that says “she’s in one of her worlds.” I think being a writer and being an author are two different things. I know writers who aren’t authors (go to any writers’ group) and authors who aren’t writers. (I’m looking at you, Snooki.)

    I’ve authored non-fiction works and did so as work-for-hire simply so that I could tell people I was published. That was 10 years ago when being published meant more to me than it does now. Lately I’ve come to the realisation that it matters not one iota if I never publish another word. I’m doing something I love to do and that I’m good at. And the Lord has used this to open a lot of doors and create microministries where I least expected them. So sometimes when you’re called to write it doesn’t mean you’re called to be JK Rowling.

    My duty on this earth is to do what Christ calls me to do. If that means just writing for the small spheres in which my work appears than that’s what I’ll do. Plenty of ministers have preached to small congregations, plenty of nurses have worked in hospice care with one or two patients at a time. It isn’t the size of your ministry or the wealth you reap. It’s the quality of your efforts at reflecting Christ.

    My rewards already exceed my deservedness.

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