Wednesday, February 6, 2019

We Are Real Writers

By Eleanor Shelton

Recently a friend took me to a reading party. A local writing group was celebrating their 15th year together by publishing a chapbook. Each member contributed poems, a short story, or an essay. A hearty group of about 30 had collected to listen to the writers read their favorite work. 

As we mingled before the event, my friend kept introducing me to these members of the writing group in a way that made me very uncomfortable.

“Let me introduce my friend, Eleanor. She’s a real writer.”

I knew she meant well, but I was mortified. Each time she said that I countered with, “If you put words together to tell a story, you’re a real writer.” 

Each time I said that they would smile in a self-deprecating manner and defer saying, “Oh no, I’m just a hobbyist” or something to the like.

After the third time that my friend introduced me as a “real writer,” I asked her to stop. The only difference between the members of this writing group and me is I make my living from writing. I don’t make money from fiction (although I regularly sacrifice small chickens to the Gods of Writing that one day I will), but editorial and technical writing doesn’t fill my soul. 

I have a completed novel, am editing my second novel, and have had some short stories published. But I am no more a “real writer” than any of those fabulous people I met.

Image result for images for creating a community of writers

What they had was something beyond writing. As the group introduced each other, I felt the genuine affection radiating between them. They cried tears of pride and joy for each other and helped those infirm get to the podium. 

Writing had brought them together as a makeshift family. After 15 years they had stayed together longer than half of the marriages in the United States.

This writing family had birthed something that will never age, continuously give them pride, and won’t require college tuition. This book represents hard work, dedication, and rawness, all essential aspects of writing. They had committed to their craft and to each other. They had found their community of writers, their tribe. A connection for which I'm still searching.

While writing is usually a solitary pursuit, it takes a tribe to see it take shape. We rely on others to keep our motivation high, act as beta readers, and reconfirm that we’re not certifiable for thinking we can actually do this. They understand us, speak our language, feel our pain, understand our small victories, believe with us in miracles.

These locals were doing what they loved and had found a community that made them happy. It lit up their faces and in the timbre of their voices.

So, by the time a couple of hours had gone by, the readings were over, and the wine and cheese consumed, I wondered to myself, who here is the real writer?


Deborah Nielsen said...

Sometimes we have a self-confidence problem that keeps us from calling ourselves real writers, or we think that if we don't get paid for writing that we're not real writers. Putting words together on paper or on a screen to tell a story of any sort makes a real writer, whether we do it for pay or purely for passion.

This seems to be a recurrent theme. Some time back I wrote a guest column on this same subject ( I really like your take on it, Eleanor. Great story!

Joshua V. Lucero said...

I guide and support best ghost writers as they read their creative goals, debunking myths and illusions as necessary while honoring the unique vision and voice of my editing clients, students, and writers who submit to Del Sol Press.

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