Being a writer is sort of like being a tightrope walker. No matter how good you are, there just aren’t that many circuses around anymore. People have forgotten what a real highwire artist looks like, gingerly crossing on half an inch of hemp, high above the crowd. What few circuses are left have their own walkers in house–getting in front of a sincere audience to prove your mettle is hard.
And now that everyone has their own balance beam, it is harder still. “Look, I’m a tightrope walker!” they say, as they totter across the wide beam, six inches off the ground. Most of the time I figure it’s good to applaud the lowbeam walkers because you never know when one of them will graduate to the big top. And there’s not a lick of harm for anyone in being encouraging. Especially when you yourself (i.e. me) aren’t much of one for doing anything without a net.
I have to say, though, that I found myself with a case of the grumps yesterday afternoon when I visited another blog for the first time. It was an obviously home-made affair, and I was there for a blog entry that another friend had linked. I read the entry and then did a quick stop when I got to the part where the blogger described their person as “a writer.” (“all evidence to the contrary,” I thought to myself. I was really in a bad mood.) Then, I looked across the top of the page. Yep. There it was. One of the links was “On Writing”.
It’s like one of those balance-beam walkers offering classes in gymnastics.
Yes, I write about writing sometimes. But I don’t kid myself that I’m enough of any sort of expert to have the same “on writing” section that authors with multiple best-selling published works flaunt on their pages. Besides which, I figure, why does anyone want to read my advice On Writing when I haven’t even Finished My Novel or Found A Publisher? It seems sort of stupid. I’ll converse about writing, talk about what helps me.
I’m wrestling with myself even as I write this post. Because I really believe in the core of my being that being a writer is very much about a personality type and a way of looking at the world. But I also think “being a writer” means you “write things”. A few days ago Patrick Todoroff wrote about an experience it seems we share–encountering folks who call themselves writers who are more about the cache than the work.
And I guess that’s what is bothering me, if I have to distill this grump into a pure thought. Writing fiction is a craft and an emotionally difficult thing to do well. To have there be people who are poseurs makes the entire craft seem too easy to get at.
Writing–real, good, quality writing–is WORK. It isn’t just hanging out at a coffee shop with your laptop.