Monday, January 26, 2009

The state of being constant

Okay, let me see if I can express this concept in a way that will make sense since I haven't really thought it all through yet...

I've been thinking a lot about the writing life and the drive to constantly produce. The old addage goes: Writers write. And I certainly agree with that and believe it can get lost in the laundry list of 'other stuff' writers are supposed to do.

However - in order to be considered a 'writer' does one have to write consistently? We talk a lot about writing every day and treating it like a career, having specific times to write, places to write, ways to write in order to get the job done, but...is writing a job or a calling? Can one still be a writer if one writes one great book, then doesn't write at all for years?

Writing is an art after all, and art can't be rushed. It comes from the moment, the circumstance, the inspiration that hits the writer at any given time. It doesn't come from punching a clock; it doesn't start at 9:00 AM, knock off for lunch at noon and then work straight on until 5:00 with weekends and holidays off. Writing is whenever, wherever and however.

I'm wondering if the true key to success as a writer lies not in creating a workaday schedule that allows one to turn out three novels a year or one novella a month etc, etc, but in really just following the muse, creating the best, most inspired work you can when the muse moves you and being, doing, living something else the rest of the time.

Yes, writers write, but when they're not writing, when they're just living, aren't they still writers?

7 comments:

Kristen Painter said...

I think a writer is always a writer. However, I think when deadlines loom, writing becomes more of a job and less of an art.

Kate Willoughby said...

If I want to be deep about this, I think that whether you're a writer or not is your own personal decision. It boils down to YOU deciding whether you're a writer or not. It CAN be a designation others bestow on you, but ultimately, it's what you feel you are inside.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Kristen, I agree. Deadlines are of course part of the writing life and many writers produce their best work under pressure, some thrive on it, but is the art of writing compromised at some point by too many deadlines?

Kate, thanks for stopping by! I agree that being a writer is something that comes from within - though so many of us [myself included for a long time] hesitate to call ourselves writers because we haven't achieved a specific goal such as being published, or having a NY contract, etc. We are writers because we write, but when we don't write, I believe we have still earned the right to call ourselves writers.

Shelley Munro said...

I've always thought of myself as a writer and treated writing as my job, even when I worked at another job. To me they're the same thing.

I don't think it's good to put too much focus on the "writer" tag. When I'm not writing, I'm still a writer. I think it all depends on the person and what they think.

Besides, I know how much hard slog goes into producing a book and getting it published. How can I tell them that they're not considered a writer because they've decided to stop at one book? I wouldn't. It's what they think that counts.

Jen said...

Thought provoking post -- I need to take an aspirin...

Jen said...

Thought provoking post -- I need to take an aspirin...

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Sorry, Jen! Didn't mean to make your head hurt. I have to wax philosophical once in a while just to see who's listening. ;)