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The writer is one who writes

scribeSeems obvious, yeah? But it isn’t. Because you know people who call themselves writers who haven’t penned a word in months.

Planning to write is not writing. Wanting to write is not writing. Smoking cigarettes and wearing glasses is not writing. Having a great idea about your thousand-page, genre-altering manifesto isn’t writing. Writing is writing. And writers write.

Here it is: If you dedicate real minutes, hours, days, and nights to the pen and page; if you plant yourself in front of the screen and turn off the wifi, fingers on the keys like a maestro just feeling it; if you get your hands dirty in a mess of words — knowing most of them will never make the cut — you are a writer.

Let there be no more confusion. Let’s not degrade the profession, the life, the beauty of real writing. Let’s not cheapen the act by confusing it with a million other acts that are not really writing.

A writer will be known by her words. Not her words spoken, but her words immortalized in ink. Words that, when she is gone, will keep going on and on.

This is a writer.

The writer is delusional

A writer must believe he has something to say. He must believe his words count for something, that they are worth putting down on paper and, more than that, worth reading.

The writer must believe not only that his words are worth his own time, but that they are worth the time of others.

Writers may journal. They may write for themselves. They may write to process or to remember or to forget. But in the end, we write to communicate, to live, and to live again. And these are not internal processes; they are interpersonal.

The writer seeks to affect. To affect others, oneself, the world, to affect change.

So he is delusional in the ambition of his writing, that it can do anything. That words have actual power.

And he is delusional in what he writes. He writes other lives, other times, other places, other worlds. And still the writer is convinced he has a real insider’s knowledge about the thing.

The writer must be delusional to think from the start that anything is possible. But only through this delusion can it become real.

This is a writer.

The writer is one who reads

writer2To write is to read. But not only to read the words pouring out of the pen, watching them splash the page and become real, but also all other words.

The writer learns to write from others who have written.

The writer learns truth from others who have passed it on in book after book and page after a million miles of previous pages.

The writer learns universe-construction from those who have made it their business to construct.

The writer cannot know what it is to write had she not inherited all the writing that came before.

Anyone who claims to be a writer but does not read is on the verge of hypocrisy. To claim the former without the latter is to say, “I work with tools I have not known, for an end I have not sought, in a way I cannot grasp.” For the only way to know and seek and grasp at the written word — and, in the end, the stories those words compose — is to read.

This is a writer.

The writer is brave

You need not feel brave to be a writer. A great many of the bravest people did not think themselves brave. But bravery is not a feeling; it is an act. Bravery is doing and going when it would be easier to stay put.

The writer goes forth into the infinite darkness of blank pages. He does not know what he will find there. He may have expectations, even his own crude map, but to write is always to venture into foreign territory.

The writer is a pioneer or words, an explorer of worlds. He crosses all manner of obstacles, facing the wilds within and the wilds without. He consorts with strangers.

When the writer sees a void, his first instinct is neither to turn around nor find a guide — there are no guides here — but to ford that river himself. To find a path and know the way that no one else has known. The writer charts the way through the wilderness. He tames oblivion.

The writer can be frail and frightened, can be tired and unsure, but he goes anyway. Because if he doesn’t go first, the world will be undiscovered forever.

The writer is brave because he goes into worlds where only he can go. He must go alone. No one back home can tell him which is the way through the foliage, or where to find water in the desert, or where the bears live.

And only after the solitary expedition, novels deep and lifetimes long, can the writer invite others to come and see.

This is a writer.

The writer is free

writer3The writer has complete liberty. She is bound to no convention of style or thought or plot twist. She is only shackled insofar as she shackles herself.

The writer can go anywhere, do anything.

The writer can be anyone.

She has total freedom for benevolence or for evil. She can kill and resurrect. Go backward or forward in time and space. The very notions of time and space are up to the writer.

She is as free as her mind allows.

She knows total freedom does not mean anything she writes is good or right, but she knows she is able. She knows it is all there for the taking. Everything is opportune.

So she imagines and goes, she builds and sends. She does inception. Magic. Universal architecture.

She knows, in the end, there is no limit except the sky she writes herself.

This is a writer.

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