If Someone Says You're Not a Real Writer, You Have My Permission to Stab Them in the Face

If Someone Says You’re Not a Real Writer, You Have My Permission to Stab Them in the Face

So yesterday, somewhere on Facebook, I think, I saw one of those quotes for writers — you know the kind, a quote that’s meant to be “inspirational?” Here’s the pearl of wisdom in question:

“I can write anywhere. If the story is in you, it’ll come out wherever you are. Writing is something that you cannot NOT do, if it’s in your soul.” —  James McBride, author of The Color of Water

And my immediate reaction was basically, “Fuck all of this.”

I’ve seen this kind of attitude before. (I’ve written about it before, too, in a post titled “You Are Not Crazy And Writing Is Not A Compulsion.”) The idea that you’re only a real writer if, supposing you were thrown in jail without pen and paper, you would bite off your fingertips to write on the walls in your own blood, or some such bullshit.

Here’s reality:

“Not writing” is really easy. Anyone can not write. I’ve been managing to Not Write for months now. There’s always something else that can quite easily take your time and attention, from your day job to your social life to tackling that sink full of dishes, already.

Actually sitting down and making yourself write is about discipline, and that’s something you can get better at if you spend time and effort on it. It’s something that can slip every once in a while, too, and that’s fine, because you are a human being and you are not required to be perfect all the damn time.

And nobody, anywhere, ever, has the right to look down on you and throw you out of the Real Writers’ Club because you’re not making the word count you want to be making.

Don’t ever doubt, if there’s some voice in your soul telling you to write, that that voice is any less real and valid than anyone else’s, just because you are not absolutely driven by it. Do these other writers honestly find that writing is something they “cannot NOT do?” Sure, maybe. I think they’re lying to make themselves look good, personally; I think they’re trying to make writing look like something lofty and magical that only the Special Anointed People can do. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe thousands of words just flow out of their fingers every day because they just can’t help it. Sure, why not?

But the rest of us have to work for it.

Do I sound angry? I am. I’m angry at myself for not writing more, and paradoxically, I’m angry at myself for letting myself buy into this bullshit and hating myself for not writing more. But I’m especially angry at the people who spread this kind of nonsense, who make the rest of us feel like maybe we just lack some magical spark inside if we dare to fall behind, and who make us wonder if maybe we should just give up.

Don’t give up. You have that spark. Sometimes it just takes work and commitment to fan it into a flame.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images