As a longtime working journalist, published non-fiction author, and unpublished (but trying very hard!) fiction author, I came into the discussion thinking that the difference between A Writer and someone who writes sometimes is end product: you pitch, you land, you file, you publish. And even when you’re not actively working you’re plotting your next project, scheming to block out some writing time, or even just mentally circling and re-circling some future date when you think be able to get back to it.
Then my friend Marianne Kirby
reminded me that art is not validated by capitalism. A publisher sending you a check doesn’t make you a writer, and an editor not acquiring your manuscript doesn’t mean you didn’t write it.
At the same time, though, someone who’s never been published, has been “working” for years and years and years on the same novel (that’s never going to get published), and spends all kinds of money and time going to writing conferences and writing workshops and being in writer groups yet never writing? That person, I still feel comfortable calling Not A Writer.
So now, my improved personal definition of being a writer is being one who does the work of craft.
Are you taking your writing seriously? Are you reflecting on your end result? Are you sharing your work with even one other person? Are you seeking, and incorporating, feedback? Are you trying to tell better stories? Are you admiring people who are writing the way you’d like to, and admitting to yourself when you’ve fallen short?
As I read Meg Linehan’s work this week, followed her tireless reporting, saw the level of her craft and stood in awe of its ground-shaking impact, I couldn’t help but see all the ways I’m falling short.
While I may never write anything resonates so strongly, or topples so much entrenched power, there’s one thing I know I can do right now that I haven’t been doing: investing in women’s sports.
Sure, I’ve been a figure-skating dad, a gymnastics dad, and soccer dad to two daughters. I’ve coached and reffed girls in soccer. I play soccer with women in an adult co-ed league. I follow lots of womens’ sports people, from writers and editors to athletes and fans. I even retweet some women’s sports highlights sometimes!
But outside of the usual suspects – the Olympics, the World Cup, huge games involving athletes or teams I have some kind of link to – I’m not watching.