A friend who is also a writer, maybe the most gifted one I know personally, was lamenting about all the things a writer must have. As she has taken care to have most of these things, her lament was born of experience.
She is, yet, unpublished, although if there is any smidgen of justice in this life, she will be. She has a website, a blog, a backyard cottage with a dedicated writing room, a critique group, and an agent. She has gone on writing retreats, some rather costly. She has attended workshops. She has travelled to conferences in New York (also costly) and has a taken a two-years-long MFA course resulting in a master’s degree.
And she’s got the most germane thing of them all of all— the time and means to dedicate to writing.
And now, she told me, she has realized that while all of the above have given her this thing called the writing life, none of them is necessary. Great novels were written and published without their creators having these.
We broke it down thus:
WEBSITE— Good to have, but not absolutely necessary.
WRITING COTTAGE— a dedicated space is really nice and helpful, but not a must
CRITIQUE GROUP— this isn’t for every writer, and many never belong to a group
AGENT— Helpful, but, again, not an absolute must
WRITING RETREATS— Lovely and romantic, but the act of writing requires only a periodic inner retreat, not an actual cottage in the woods
WORKSHOPS and CONFERENCES— Helpful for some, not a must
ACADEMIC DEGREES— these never make a writer, but they could make a teacher
TIME and MEANS— many have managed their first books without having either
All these are helpful, and some are immensely so. But not one makes a great or even fine writer. The “business around The Business” will make you think otherwise. But they are selling the above.
As we talked about it, and wound up dismissing one item after another, we found ourselves laughing giddily at the energy expended on the periphery of the creative vortex. It’s lovely and interesting to “be a writer,” but no substitute to, ahmm, writing.
It’s a funny thing about writing. Whether it’s cute ditties or the great American novel, we don’t need much, nor should we use not having much as a reason not to. We only need to buckle up and do it.