‘Are you a real writer?’

I had to wean myself off the pocket notepads I used for more than 20 years. The pocket notepads went in my back pocket and made an outline of themselves like a tin of chewing tobacco. The pocket notepads started when I was a freelance writer/reporter, and how intently I must have looked scribbling, all the salient points, in those township meetings. And as I went on to other jobs I took the notepad with me because there was always something important to write, work or otherwise, and over time, its presence on my butt was a reminder of who I wanted to be every time I got dressed, which was every day.

Maybe I just wanted to leave something behind to prove my point. But going back, going through those notes is no reward for my survivors. The notepads became a staging place for ideas I developed elsewhere, many of them here. So I gave myself the habit of ‘pre-creating,’ and then took those notes to another format to finish them.

And because I’m habitual I do the same with my phone: I type notes with my thumbs in one app and then move them over to WordPress when I’m ready to edit. There’s something psychological about feeling free to fail, or just ideate that’s important.

And like my one-time writer and illustrator neighbor Brom said, he had to put himself into a mindset to write or draw, they were separate things. There was some foreplay to get himself in the mood, I imagined. I started doing that too. I could feel it coming on, as I transitioned from work-mind to creative-mind, it sometimes turned to butterflies in my stomach, if it was good.

And Bowie said something about never playing to the gallery, or, don’t define yourself by what others like or require of you. What a hard thing that is to learn. How often I think something I wrote is better than it is based on the way people react to it, and the reverse is also true. But the reverse is always worse, when you’re proud of what you made but don’t get much in return.

On the rare times I go back and read something I’ve published on my blog it’s a mixture of contentment and disappointment, which is just like my life I guess; it succeeds that much in its realism.

I saw this image below this morning from Chuck Wendig, and it brought me joy and comfort. Perhaps the lesson is, ‘don’t let who you are get confused by the money it makes you.’

Categories: writing

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51 replies

  1. I wish I had made more of an effort to get paid to write when I was young. As the diagram says, I’m still a writer but, let’s face it, getting paid is where the rubber meets the road. Too bad about my lack of enthusiasm and inherent fear of rejection.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I write (including thinking about writing, looking for ideas etc) more than I ‘work’ – quite often while I’m at work. There’s something about writing that defines who I feel I am and the day job is just what people see, not really what I think of when I think of me.
    I have a stack of notebooks too. Have often thought I need a ‘notebook buddy’, someone who comes into our house and scans my pads for those little asides I might have made about loved ones when I’m not feeling the love 100% … πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Exceptionally relatable thoughts here about writing. I too sometimes think some of my writing is better than it actually is based on people’s reactions to it. That is why I never show my own writing to my family; well, my parents namely. They never have bad things to say about it which to me is unhelpful considering one writes to become better. I love to write, and write daily, but I never considered myself a ‘real’ writer because I wasn’t published and have never been paid to write. Your flow chart is charmingly encouraging πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. this chart gives us all a bit of hope )


  5. I have the arrogance to think that the reason people don’t respond to the things I think are good is because people are idiots.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You’d be right, about the idiots and the arrogance. Why change now? I like Bowie for that. And Eno. But probably best U2 didn’t spend too long with him, I think. I’m not sure. I’m an idiot, and arrogant. I have a full house, or a royal flush.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That is an excellent lesson. It is easy to get confused about who you are. Especially when you spend your free time writing about imaginary people in imaginary places. I like how the chart lays it out. I do think there’s a meaningful distinction to be made between writer and professional writer. Making a living (or even half a living) as a writer is an amazing accomplishment that I don’t want to take away from people who have worked so hard to achieve. After all, if I said “I’m a dancer” or “I’m a historian” that implies I’m talking about my profession, not something I enjoy doing in my free time. That’s why I’m happy to say “I write.” Because I do.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s an interesting problem, the way people react to what we write. Often, the things I work the hardest on get almost no views, while the things I just toss off are surprisingly popular. It produces weird incentives.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I understand that, I think you do more with your efforts and what you’ve done over your lifetime. It’s an inspiration to me though, I’ll say that. Interesting problem is a good way of putting it. Not one to let it dissuade you, though I’ve detected that in some of your efforts to get books sold and into stores. I haven’t felt any of that yet, different ball game.


      • Yeah, there’s writing and then there’s “Why am I writing?” And it’s not for money, so it must be for some kind of reaction from readers. Though sometimes it’s just to get something down that’s knocking around in the old noodle.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bowie said it better than I can but to paraphrase him, it’s to describe how you relate to the universe. That shit is deep, man.


  8. Maybe the chart needs a branch for “are you a dabbler?” Once in a while I’ll write something worthwhile, but mostly that which spews forth could best be described as dabbling in writing rather than “real” writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, that’s good. Dabbling is good, nothing wrong with that. I like your writing, your stories…you seem to have more of a thing for the camera though, wouldn’t you say? It seems that’s the thing you get excited about when you go out somewhere, is the shots. Or is it both, the story and the pictures? I’m into the story. I dabble in photos.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, well photography’s been a hobby for 45+ years, it’s like an old friend. Creative writing is something I’ve been dabbling with for less than 2 years, I haven’t quite gotten a comfort zone. If I don’t have a story idea I’ll let the pictures drive the story.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That sounds good. Don’t give up on the dabbling of course, give it some time…as long as you’re having fun, it will show.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you Bill I love your way with words –
    So true
    I find though when I remember to
    let the joy of accomplishment in I shine a little brighter. I think there is benefit in satisfaction although through our teenage angst we seem to struggle and then we create something ‘great’ – but as the decades go I think teenage angst is overrated and it’s fine to design a sleigh that rides well with exhilaration downhill

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a cool image, of the sleigh. And how super it is to hear from you, and odd in a way! People like you, specifically you, are so rare that you can live off your art…for however hard that must be, what a light it is to behold! How lucky we were to have that experience in the musik schule and the former dungeon, and all the ironies wrapped up inside that, and with you singing that John Lennon song…almost brought a tear to my eye just now thinking about it. Thanks for that memory and your words here, and reading…very cool. I’ll tell Lily. Bill


  10. You gotta love Chuck’s optimism about what makes a writer. I wish it were that easy to feel like a writer. But boy does the pinnacle of being paid make it feel all efforts are null and void as far as validation is concerned. Still, I appreciated the idea of carrying something around with you daily to remind you of who you truly are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for saying that Kiri and for reading; it’s our mutual friend Michelle who recommended Chuck to me and happy she did. You know, on the converse, I recall getting paid to write when I was quite young, and for doing freelance newspaper stuff, and how proud of myself I was for that, but how droll what I wrote really was. So it works both ways. It’s taken me a solid 25 years to feel good as a writer, without making more than 1K on it in total, probably…or getting paid to write corporate memos or voicemail scripts for executives, which I’m not even counting in here. Takes a long time, and a lot of trust and inner-examination. If you have the spark, just keep rubbing those sticks together, I think. As long as you enjoy it and it’s fun.


  11. Enjoyed reading this piece. I started using notepads when I started off in journalism six years ago when we were provided by office. Despite jotting on notes on my Ipad, I still keep one notepad for professional assignments as a freelancer and another one to write ideas for the book I am trying to write.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The infographic is funny and true at the same time. Reading from a post before I landed on your blog, I believe that not everybody that hits the like button actually reads a post. Some visitors do it for some personal reasons, I guess, and one is for people to get back to their blog and hit the like button, too. haha

    I love the free-flowing thoughts on this post. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know! People do that with the Like button. I’m glad and thankful you took the time to not only read mine but send me some thoughts, too. Chuck is a great kick in the ass for aspiring writers, at least for me. Thanks for visiting and not being a robot.



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