By Liz Selvig
The definition of being a “real” writer at its most basic is simple—when you write and that’s what you want to do, you’re a real writer. In our profession we’re always looking for the satisfaction of publication, it’s true, but deep down we know that if writing is at our core we’ll put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard whether we are published or not.
So, I here stipulate that all of us reading this blog, with exceptions for our friends and non-writer fans, are writers. My question is: what makes us feel like real writers?
Some of you have felt “real” from the moment you wrote your first word and that’s as it should be. Me? I still feel like an imposter most days. I love to write—or, more accurately, I love to have written, because the actual writing is hard. But writing a book in my case definitely takes a village—and some days I feel like I’m just an actor in front of other people watching me play a part. After my first book came out I thought I’d feel cool. Like I was walking with giants. Hah! I felt like I’d won a special backstage pass to watch the cool writers be cool. I visited. I smiled. I shook a few hands. Got a few autographs. Then I was just me again. Not a cool kid.
I know its poppycock. We’re each on our own journey. We’re each cool. I had a list of goals similar to that of my writer friends and I’d met them:
1. Finish a manuscript
2. Enter a contest
3. Win a contest
4. Send out queries
5. Get an agent
6. Sell a book.
Any one of those steps defines a real writer—even in the commercial sense. So why did I still feel like I was pulling one over on the writing universe?
I rode the wave of fun that accompanied the release of my first book and I even signed a handful of them. I got some nice reviews and compliments from friends and family. It was all great. And then the wave broke as waves do, and I had to go back to grindstone—as writers should have to do. And there I stalled.
Several writer friends published second and even third books. Numbers for them soared and promo for them continued. At RWA and RT they had piles of several different books. I was promo-ing the same thing. And I was, like, waiting for the book fairy to come down and give me another book (preferably without any help from me). Barring that, I needed at least a kick in the shorts and a lecture to get the dang book done.
But I was a fluke. A one-hit wonder. I was competing even with my own good reviews.
Finally, finally I wrote and revised and slogged my way through a second book. I turned it in and waited for my agent and editor to come back with a gently worded Dear John letter. “Yup—you wrote a lovely book—now go back to your day job.”
Of course that didn’t happen. I have a lovely new book, “Rescued by a Stranger” coming out in three days. And I admit, once that second book had been accepted, I honestly felt like real writer. I would be multi-published. Legitimate. Not an imposter.
But even as I basked in that feeling the little noggins in my brain started. Other real writers had more friends on FB, they were debuting at #3, #2 even #1 over at Amazon. They had fans, they had street teams, they had their acts together, and I didn’t know what the heck I was doing promotion-wise. They, they, they …
...and it smacked me upside the head. I was and have always been measuring being a “real writer” with the yardstick of comparison. I saw what I perceived as “real” and believed if I hadn’t done the same things, I wasn’t yet legit.
It’s a crock. Which, of course, most of you know. This is the secret: we simply ARE real writers. We don’t have to try. There will always be someone doing something different, having more or less success, reaching a goal we’ve set before we do. It doesn’t matter. Comparison is the kiss of death. Comparison shuts writers down. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Liz.
Young Liz - working on her writing
What’s it mean to feel like a real writer? I’ve discovered exactly what it is—believing that you have a story to tell and loving that story whether one person reads it or 100,000 people read it (one of my goals, mind you, despite my advice). It’s being able to say just to yourself: Hi, I’m (insert your name here) and I am a real writer!
So 'write on' my real writer friends—you each have an incredible gift. Don’t waste time analyzing it—I already (over)did that for you.