I enjoy writing in English; it’s such an expressive and versatile language and I make sure to find ways to practice and improve every day. But as much as I enjoy the whole process of writing, I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a writer.
When it comes to writing in Swedish on the other hand, I can easily get away with murder; I know the rules well enough to break them and I have this delightful sense of knowing what I’m doing. But first and foremost—I know what it took to get me there. This is why I’ve got this major hangup when I’m reviewing professional resumés. You don’t get to call yourself a writer – or a good one at that – if it’s apparent that you’re not. Period.
On behalf of all real writers out there, here’s what we know that we know:
1. You Know That The First Draft Of Anything Is Shit
Writers know that their first drafts often isn’t much better than the ones of ordinary humans. But what happens is that the solid writer will see thousands of imperfections with their initial scribblings, but they’re still the ones who takes a deep breath and wanders back into the fire. This is why writers never gives you anything until the deadline is upon them.
Non-writers believes this is crap, of course. When they see the final result, they think that they probably could have written that whole thing in half the time, simply because it reads so easy and effortless. But as a writer you know that your job is to persistently remove all the vain clutter from your initial efforts.
In the words of Ernest Hemingway who’s clarity of style is legendary, “the first draft of anything is shit”.
2. You Know The Magic Tricks And How To Use Them
A writer knows the power of showing instead of telling. A writer knows how to steer clear of clichés. A writer knows that there are significant differences between “the rabbit was locked in a cage and had the number eight written on its back” and “locked in a cage was a rabbit and on its back, someone had written the number eight”. As a writer you understand that while readers see the number eight clearly, some people’s rabbits are white and others are brown or black.
If it’s not important to your message, you prefer having the readers add as much of their own flavor to what you’re creating, because the more of themselves they project into your writing, the more they will like it. After all, it’s profoundly human to be narcissistic.
Speaking of narcissism; as much as I hate to admit it—that rabbit with a painted eight on its back occurs more than once in popular writing. I got it from Stephen King who also knows a thing or two about the craft.
3. You Know That Inspiration Are Best Left To Amateurs
As the saying goes, “even a blind hen sometimes finds a grain of corn”. How good you are as a writer is determined by how good you are when you’re not on top of your game. Professionals don’t sit around waiting for inspiration, they trust that their craftsmanship will be better still than what the amateurs are creating on their best days.
4. You Know How To Manage Editors And Proofreaders
It’s a dirty job, but someone got to get the first sentences down. And you know what’s coming; hordes of people eager to “review” your writings. You know you need outside counsel since you’re not writing only for yourself, but sometimes it gets more than a little bit tiring with all that well-meaning advice. In fact, external feedback is part of your process and only after more than a few rounds of revisions, you might call your work ‘done’.
Sometimes you want to tell the eager reviewers to go write something themselves so that you could show them how you yourself could improve their drafts far and beyond their grasps. But then you wouldn’t, simply because you have too much respect for anyone who has been where you have been with that blank piece of paper.
So you swallow your pride for the greater good of your craft. You give the editors and the proofreaders the encouragement they need in order to play their parts in your process. And those lucky few who finds editors who understands the struggles and artistry of writing, they hold on to them as if they were a part of themselves.
5. You Can Enjoy And Hate The Fine Writings Of Others
We all know that some people are faking it at fine restaurants. They can’t distinguish a fine wine from a mediocre one. And that’s okay. When someone asks me what kind of wine I like, I say “yes”. To me it’s a mystery how some individuals can do wine testing whit their eyes blindfolded and actually getting it right time and again.
But to most people, writing is that same mystery (and it comes with just as much faking, by the way). I can enjoy The Da Vinci Code the same way I enjoy a Big Mac when I’m a little drunk, but it doesn’t really compare to the sheer genius of Alice in Wonderland. You know you’ll never be that good and you hate it, but you can’t ignore it either.
Call me a snob, but if I read that someone “kissed her passionately”, I simply can’t read another line. That “passionately” shouldn’t be there, because if it needs to be, then the writing simply isn’t clear enough. End of story, literally.
6. You Struggle With The Great Irony Of Writing
Vanity is what drives great many writers, but nothing clutters writing as much as writer’s own egos. If you find a way around this, be sure to let me know how you did it. I’d probably be jealous of you (if I were to actually believe you, that is), but for some mysterious reason, I’d still would want to know.
So, think twice before you call yourself a writer. We don’t hand out certificates or diplomas, but no matter if you aspire to be a novelist, a copywriter or a PR specialist, be mindful of who you’re pitching yourself to. Because if that person actually knows how to write, he or she will call your bluff and you’ll never know why you didn’t get that interview.
Image credit: Hipstercrite