What It Means To Be A Writer

Today, millions of books are published yearly. In this stormy climate, what does it mean to be a writer?

Near the end of the 18th Century (1700 A.D.-1800 A.D., roughly), history was in full swing. The Enlightenment (a shift in thinking on religion, nature, science, and more) was underway and the world was growing tired of the way culture was done. It was during this time, to fight back against Classicism and the Enlightenment, that Romanticism was born. Romanticism affected many artforms, but it’s particular effect on literature is of special interest because it took focus off the more formal way of writing and instead focused on emotion, heroism, and the darker themes of life and the supernatural. Romanticism would change the way literature is written and perceived forever.

Art piece by Alexandre-Marie Colin (Source: Matthiesen Gallery)

Today I opened up a Grimm’s Fairy Tales collection, which I got several years ago in a storage auction. It was the first time I’ve looked at the book with any attention to detail. I read the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, a story which was published for the first time in 1812, during the Romantic Era. But it wasn’t necessarily the story that inspired me to talk about this collection, but rather what was handwritten in the front cover. It reads, “To Emily, who I hope uses this book as an introduction to all the adventure and knowledge found in reading.” The inscription isn’t dated, but the book’s print date is 1971. These words, written for someone named Emily, an anonymous reader of books, struck me because whoever wrote this inscription captured not only what the primary goal of Romanticism was but also what the primary goal of almost every writer is: to give adventure and impart some fragment of knowledge or an idea onto the reader.

“A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” – Stephen King
Photograph of Stephen King (Source: The Independant)

Let’s admit it: Not every writer is a Tolkien, a Rowling, or a King, but every writer has something to say, something of such importance that he or she is brave enough to write about it. Writing isn’t of great monetary value, at least not at first, but the writer firstly does it for qualitative purposes, because she or he feels they must, whether to address something in their own life or to make commentary on something else. When I was nine years old and drafting my first novel (which, unsurprisingly, was dreadful), it wasn’t because I wanted to get something from it, but rather because I wanted to give something from it. I didn’t know what I was destined to impart yet, but I knew that, as Romantic poet William Wordsworth once said, I needed to “Fill [my] paper with the breathings of [my] heart.” These stories were clawing their way out, and if I didn’t write them, I dreamt them vividly–with an entire village of giants, elves, and biker zombies lurking just behind my sleepy eyes (yeah, weird dreams).

Being a writer means doing what you love, not because you’ll always get a paycheck for it (though, that’s always nice), but because it’s what you love. Like King said, anyone with a memory of their past is capable of writing a story–even if it’s their own life put in words. Indulge in your emotions and thoughts, let them flow and populate the page, and create a habitat for more of those ideas to run wild. The big ideas will overtake the lesser ones, if your ecosystem is running freely, and while you may not succeed or love what you’ve written at first, just try, try, try again. I may have been nine when I started working on my first novel, but it was eight years and a bunch of drafts later that I published it. Being a writer, first and foremost, means writing. So get to it.

I’ll close with one more quote that I appreciate, this one from Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, and more:

“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”

Thanks for reading! How’s 2018 treating you so far? The start of the New Year is always a precipice overlooking dozens of opportunities. One of those opportunities this year will be the release of Mordecai – Episode Two, if all goes as planned, so it’s never been a better time to get a copy of Episode One: Bloodthirsty. You can order it here!

Read more of my thoughts on writing here:

In Writing: The Setting

Being You vs. Being an Artist

Weekly Writing Prompt:

It was a dark morning when he woke up to find an old friend standing at the front door…

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