Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The BEING of the Writer

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She is, yet, unpublished, although if there is any smidgen of justice in this life, she will be.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.

BLOG— Ditto

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.


  1. Well said. A lot of those things mentioned can make the writing journey more enjoyable (and that's important, too, I think), but they aren't essential to the writing itself.

  2. So very true! Those things are great but not necessities. The good thing is that someone who doesn't have access to those things need not worry. They can still write. :)

  3. Determination/desire - essential to every pursuit, especially in the arts, I think.

  4. *applause*
    A giant Yes! to your post. It's when we stop thinking about writing that we find ourselves doing it.

    Getting to that point can take some trickery, for we are all too good at finding reasons and excuses to keep from doing even something we swear we love to do.

    There very often IS no time--and that's when you find yourself not even thinking about time because you're in the writing vortex.

  5. Great post, Mirka. Seems no matter what equipment, credentials, and outlets we're fortunate to have, it's all a matter of having your work land on the right editor's desk at the right time.