August 23, 2013

are you a writer, or a REAL writer?


Writers get quite a bit of stick sometimes. Especially, it seems, if said writer goes around actually calling themselves ‘a writer’ to judgey-faced people. What’s the criteria anyway? Does the modern day writer really just sit around in cafes writing blog posts about writing? Do they really carry around an electronic quill? Do they get paid in megabytes?

It seems at dinner parties there is normally a shrill echo from a gossipy acquaintance: “a writer, are you!!? Bet you don’t actually use a pen though, do you!!”

At the moment with social networking addiction sweeping the nation and an increasing fixation on  ‘content marketing’ everyone is constantly trying to write article that receives a similar amount of response to the ‘Ryan Gosling eating cereal’ meme, or get picked up by a BuzzFeed editor as being witty and techy enough to join the editorial team. I’d love to map out the user journey of one single tweet:

one single tweet -> retweeted by your neighbour -> replied to by a fellow blogger -> retweeted by caitlin moran -> favourited by the Times -> job offer from a rival newspaper.

It’s a weird time, where ‘journalist’ or ‘writer’ doesn’t just mean writing a fixed-word column for a print publication anymore. Most people are publishers without realising. Every time some puts  a tweet out in to the world that receives a small amount of response or reach, they have just published a tiny piece of work. Bloggers do this on a larger scale. People can basically mingle on the internet and show off their work, for free. This means that ‘writers’ are now everywhere, and aren’t just recognised on Wikipedia or in the cob-webbed corners of a library.

Here’s some bullshit stuff I’ve overheard recently, about the writing profession:

  • You can’t be an real writer if it’s not your full time job
  • You can’t be a real writer if you don’t get paid to do it
  • You can’t be a real writer if you haven’t been to uni / got degree
  • You can’t be a real writer if you didn’t study journalism
  • You can’t be a real writer if you don’t write for a newspaper
  • You can’t be a real writer if you just run a blog
  • You can’t be a real writer if you don’t have plans to write a book
  • You can’t be a real writer if you don’t have your own editor
  • You can’t be a real writer if you break rules

Well, I think all of those things are utter horse poop.

If you write in your spare time, frequently and you do it because you love it then you can officially, proudly call yourself a writer. No, it doesn’t always mean wanting ‘to quit your office job and sit in a café all day’, although that would be quite dreamy. People have multiple jobs these days, they juggle and multi-task. Yes, you do need to have an understanding of language and grammar, and ideally to have some sort of style, but Shakespeare also made up shitloads of words. So there’s no need to stick to TOO many rules. In my opinion.

It’s not absurd to be a part-time writer.The world is soon to be full of radical freelancers, just you wait.

Sorry Dolly, it’s been predicted by an unknown source that the 9-to-5 might be over in the next decade.

So let’s stop the stereotyping, and stop quizzing people to see ‘how much they get paid to write articles’. It’s a pretty rude question. Get over it, and get on with it. Real writers are everywhere.

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