• Will You Always Be a Writer?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 91 comments
    Feb
    27

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    Discussion questions: Do you think you’ll always be a writer? Will a writer always be a writer, even if he or she stops writing? When (and how) did you decide to be a writer? Share your experiences in the comments.

     

    I came to writing late, at least relative to most of my classmates in various writing programs. Throughout high school I didn’t care at all about it. In my first two undergrad stints, I dabbled in journalism but not with any vigor. Certainly not with enough vigor to avoid becoming a two-time dropout.

    When I went back, in my mid-twenties, my academic advisor suggested that majoring in English would be my quickest path to finally graduating. Within the English major, she said, I’d be asked to choose a focus. Lit, for example, or technical writing, or media studies. I asked which would get me out the quickest. Creative writing, she said. So I signed on for that, with exactly zero eagerness.

    Seventeen or so years later, here we are.

    Your turn: When and how did you decide to be a writer? Let me know below!

     

    Will a Writer Always Be a Writer?

    It was still a few more years before I decided I wanted to pursue writing, and nearly ten years before I first published anything.

    Not that there’s a standard. Writers start writing at all different ages.

    And writers stop writing at all different ages.

    In the discussion section of our “One Writer, One Question” post we talked about a sci-fi author named Dennis Schmidt, who came out with a string of novel series from 1978 to 1990 and then never published again. During his “short active career,” according to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, “Schmidt gave some impression of being an author who might at any point decide to break through into higher regions of his art; but stopped publishing.”

    Three words so simple but so heavy: “But stopped publishing.”

    There’s not much available info about Dennis Schmidt, and I can’t find any indication of why he stopped publishing at only fifty-one years old.

    This of course doesn’t mean he stopped writing. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But sometimes, a writer just… stops writing.

    In “Confessions of a Lapsed Writer” we talked a bit about what dictates a writer. If a writer goes months or even years without writing, is he or she still a writer?

    Your turn: Will a writer always be a writer, even if he or she stops writing?

     

    Will *YOU* Always Be a Writer?

    For a few years I reviewed books professionally. Not as a full-time job, obviously; there’s so little money in it. But I did refer to myself as, among other things, a book reviewer.

    The moment I quit reviewing books I stopped referring to myself as a reviewer.

    If I stopped writing altogether, would I stop referring to myself as a writer? And if so, at what point?

    I hope it’s never relevant: I doubt I’ll ever quit writing, at least for as long as I’m physically and mentally capable of it.

    I think I’ll always be a writer.

    How about you?

    Your turn: Do you think you’ll always be a writer? Or do you plan to stop once you finish your current project? And if so, do you think that means you’ll no longer be a writer? Or once a writer, always a writer? Let’s talk about it below!

     

    david blog

     

    WriteByNight writing coach and co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

     

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    John Bordeaux

    The question is precisely phrased. Even when I am not writing for months at a time, am still a writer. It is part of my identity. I’m also a guitar player, even on days when I’m not playing. I don’t write, I don’t play guitar. I am.

    stephen Glick

    John, what genra do you write? And who are your favorite authors?

    John Bordeaux

    Confession time: I don’t have favorites beyond the cotton candy of a Carl Hiassen or the obvious poetry of Cormac McCarthy, etc. I focused so much on non-fiction when completing my Ph.D. (2003) that I lost a taste for fiction. Still trying to discover what I’ve been missing all this time. Today, I find myself writing a memoir, and writing a couple of stage plays. I don’t think I’ll ever attempt a novel, that form is nearly alien to me now. I am a researcher by trade, so technical/academic writing is how I spend the waning days of my career.… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    Will I always be a writer. Simply–yes. I write a lot and so I’ll always be a writer even if my writing is never published..

    Barbara Mealer

    You are right. I can do that and often do stop and go do something and come back and pick up where I left off.

    stephen Glick

    Barbara what genre do you read and is that the genre that you write?

    Barbara Mealer

    I read a lot of genres. Thrillers, mysteries, romance, suspense, fantasy, Sci-Fi, Action, Historical of all types, you name it, I’ve probably read a few at one time or another. I write in Mystery thriller, Romantic suspense, inspirational romance, and I’m working on a fantasy type of novel for a class which has dragons, space travel and magic….had to mix it up…lol. Currently I’m reading “Romeo Rules but James Scott Bell with is excellent. Totally love Mike Romeo with his philosophical humor and snarky comments.

    Silke Chambers

    I love writing. I work full time, but my relaxation, my amusement, my enjoyment is writing. I neglect basic housekeeping to hole up in my writing space at my desktop computer and write. I stay up too late and have a hard time getting up at 6 AM for work because I am writing. So, yes, as long as I am able, I will be a writer.

    stephen Glick

    David I was in the groove when I noticed your e mail. I have been in a rut with twhree project flating just out of reach and terasing me to finish them.One an end of the world story the other an AI gone very wrong and lastly you know Joey.Thanks David I am glad I participated this time.Stephen.

    Susan

    This is me too. I will always be a writer because then I always have a reason not to do housework.

    Silke

    Ha ha! Right!

    Raymundo

    Some years ago I watched a TV program where several authors from Mississippi were interviewed. John Grisham was among them. All were asked “Will you always write?” All answered that they would always write, but probably would not always publish. I thought that interesting, as I never considered the distinction before. Somewhere back in my youth, I came up with the idea that I would work a regular career (turned out to be Info Tech) and then retire and write. Honestly, I don’t know where that came from but life is playing out that way.  There is the old trope… Read more »

    Raymundo

    That’s the ideal.

    Charity Starrett

    I am absolutely a writer for life. I hope one day to be more recognized for it but I can’t stop writing.

    Sid Kemp

    Always is a very long time. I will be a writer and keep writing (as long as I am conscious and can use a pencil or other device) as long as the body is alive. But after I shuffle off this mortal coil? I have no notion of being a writer after that. A writer shares his or her dreams and visions through the written word. Freed of this body, I look forward to dancing my dreams and visions. I’m glad I was able to inspire this blog post. I introduced Dennis Schmidt in my comment on the post “One… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    I wouldn’t know how to go about it. You got further than I did with the encylopedia of SF. Any suggestions?

    frances hill

    Yep, I will always enjoy writing. From the time I could hold a crayon in my hand and mark all over the freshly painted wall,(even tho I was punished), I wrote. 78 years later I’m still at it.

    frances hill

    Was only a toddler, my mother tells the story, I drew our family, stick figures with circles for heads and begged her not to spank me before I put the eyes in the last person. Was my first of many stories.

    Sid Kemp

    This blog post raised an interesting question for me. We’ve talked about always writing (or not) and what we give up to write.

    I flip this over and wonder about moments of feeling. For each of us, what moments, what actions as a writer or experiences or responses to our writing made us feel great and feel deeply, “I’m a writer.” I’d love to see a post and comments about that.

    Sid Kemp

    That is a good post, David. And what I see in remembering moments throughout our writing life is more, at least for me. Remembering such moments has two value. One, it is simply encouraging. I can say to myself, “Remember! You got there! You felt it!” and then go write. The other is that it can mark progress, such as from writing to publishing to publishing regularly to publishing fiction.

    Barbara Mealer

    I’ll comment on that. I felt that I was a writer when I competed my first manuscript and the person who read it said that my voice was so clear and concise, which was something she struggled with all the time. That was the moment when I said that I would learn how to do this and have fun with it. Been 6 years and still having fun writing.

    Barbara Mealer

    Just the voice, not the book…lol

    frances hill

    Good to hear someone else has FUN writing, so many young people groan how they hate to write.

    John Liebling

    Why become a writer? What motivates us to write the specific stories? So many genres and sub-genres. Different prose construction. Different intent. Escapism vs Reality… As I work towards a May or June completion date of my first Novel the whole damn thing is an origin story…and I’ve set it up to have many books…And I do like Science Fiction and Time Traveling stories… This first book started as a cathartic exercise after my dad died… I plan in the future to take journalism classes…I am at heart, my core value has always been to take on the bullies, to… Read more »

    John Liebling

    Because of covid I’ve put course work on hold…The plan is to earn my UCLA extension certificate in Creative Writing…and after that enroll in the Journalism Certificate Program. The last class I took ending a year ago…last few courses were by way of Zoom. I’ve stopped doing a number of things because Zoom is not the same. It was an education on another front. I have a mustache and beard, thinning on the dome, over weight…but I needed to declare my pronouns are he/him…oh yea my voice is certainly in the male register…Most of the students were in their 20s,… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    I have been taking classes in various things since I graduated high school. I’m one of the few who took nursing classes in the 80s who was in their middle thirties and completed it is 4 years with 4 children and a job. I’m not 72 and could probably teach a writing course from all the classes I’ve taken…now if I could just put everything in to practice, I’d be set.

    Charles Dikmak

    I seen to not have a choice (thank goodness) there’s stuff I HAVE get out, I write pretty much daily. I find it to be a wonderful experience!

    david lemke

    When I was twelve, I published my first newspaper. This was right after I got my typewriter and was in the middle of taking typing class. It was one page of humorous articles. I only made the one copy. My next adventure into writing was when I was 14. I had an English teacher, who encouraged me to write a story and submit it to Amazing Tales. I received back a generic rejection slip. I was so crushed, I didn’t do more than make random entries in a notebooks for the next 30-ish years. In 1996, my wife and I… Read more »

    david lemke

    Near-death changes your perspective. Years before, I was involved in past life research, and that also became important again. None of it seemed random. I needed new eyes.

    Elissa Malcohn

    We had opposite reactions to our first rejection slips (received at comparable ages), but I love the ways in which we embarked on our individual journeys from there. Wishing you good health and happiness.

    stephen Glick

    Good Saturday afternoon all. I began my interest in writing when I was in the process of furthering my education at the young age of 57. I enjoyed the creative writing classes and the following year a stroke swept me away from the working world. I was not ready to retire so here I am. I have more story’s than I do have years left I fear. i am trying to attach a photo which most of you have. Stephen

    S Lee Glick pic for John.jpg
    Tadd

    If I don’t ever get this first draft finished? Probably. Do I have other stories to tell? I honestly never thought about it, I’ve been so focused (and yet so lazy) about this one. LOL

    Tadd

    No, indeed I didn’t think of writing at all, so I never had the thought if I was or not. Mark Twain, Roger Zalazny, Brandon Sanderson, and all the others: those will all be thought of and titled as writers even after their death, because that’s what they did, and distributed their words to the world for it to see. Will I still be a writer when I finish this book? I honestly don’t know. If I stop for the rest of my life after, will anybody else say I am?

    Tadd

    Nothing, 100 year old Tadd is dead. D-E-D, dead. I’ll be impressed if I make it past 64 truthfully. umm…oh yeah the question…LOL Probably I would say I was a writer once if I dont write anymore after that. But mostly, I
    would be dead.

    Tadd

    Cancer’s a bitch. Mom and one of my uncles both died at 64. My family members breath a sigh of relief on their 65 birthday.

    Tadd

    hehe gotta get past 64 first.

    Elissa Malcohn

    Long post ahead!   The quip, “The Golden Age of science fiction is 12” is attributed to Peter Scott Graham. That applies to me, too. I was 12 when I wrote my first short story that was something other than what is now called fanfic.   But let me back up a year…   I entered the sixth grade in the fall of 1969. Star Trek had just gone off the air before the summer, and that had been devastating enough. Then, in August, my mother suffered a heart attack that nearly killed her. She’d spend weeks in the ICU (three years, by the way,… Read more »

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    Elissa Malcohn

    Back in the 90s I wrote a book-length account of the shared fantasy years, but it was (as I knew then, too) more cathartic than publishable. Another roadblock had to do with ownership of the Trek characters (I asked). My first novel was also unpublishable. Wollheim did me another solid (and without ellipses!) when I sent him my second. Jarvis at Doubleday likewise passed on it (“As Mr. Wollheim said, you do show promise, but unfortunately your novel is not suitable for us. It relies too heavily on psychology to keep entirely in the realm of science fiction; although we prefer stories with depth,… Read more »

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    Elissa Malcohn

    I think I sent a thank-you, but that would have been all. I had read warnings to writers against getting personal with their submissions (let the work speak for itself, etc.) and the last thing I wanted to do was “bother” an editor. I also was still in my teens and didn’t realize at the time how unusual his outreach was.

    Christina Del Pozzo

    I’ve always written, however, it wasn’t until I was retired that I thought about presenting my stories to others. I don’t know if I will ever be a published writer, but I will continue to write. It has gotten me through this pandemic with my mind more or less intact.

    Christina Del Pozzo

    That is an ongoing project, in conjunction with a journal for each grandchild. Even the identical twins have their own journal from “Nonna”. These “letters” are ongoing because they will only be given upon my death. Life is precious, and I intend to show each of them what they have contributed to my life.

    Christina Del Pozzo

    My son knows that I am doing it for his children, but he doesn’t know that I am also doing it for him. They are all on the same shelf, so he will see it when he picks the other journals off the shelf. I told him about the journals when I went in for a transplant and wasn’t sure of the outcome.

    Brigitte

    Good morning everyone, Let me begin by saying the you pose a very interesting question. “Will I always be a writer?” “Will I always live in a house? Will I always like the same clothing? Will I always love the taste of coffee in the morning? I say Yes for the sake of the question. I say YES because I believe if I enjoy something, I will not lose my desire to do it. But life is forever changing. If I think back to when I was a child, the things I loved to do then and the things I… Read more »

    Brigitte

    Hi David, Thanks as usual(and as always) for taking a few minutes from your other responsibilites to read what I have to say. It makes me feel somewhat important. Feeling important is a welcoming emotion. I believe in response to the question posed the bar exam for a writer is not something that MUST be passed state wide and does not require a passing grade. Inside one feels they are something. Sometimes a woman feels she is in love and then there are times she feels afraid of something. But one is always feeling even if the feelings change from… Read more »

    Brigitte

    Hi (again), I agree everyone of us has our own version of what it means to be a writer. Maybe we are all artists but have not discovered the gifts we have been given. I met someone who liked to paint yet she did not draw some things very well such as people. She was able to draw animals pretty good though. After years of drawing people, she draws them better now. Perhaps the bar is our own personal goal,no one elses. To pass the bar exam in real life, there is a percentage of questions must get correct. Yet,… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    I love your answers here. They make me think of Marge Piercy’s poem “For the young who want to”:
    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47399/for-the-young-who-want-to

    Brigitte

    Thank you so much for reading my response. Thanks for the compliment too.

    Brigitte

    Yes, I believe we make our own bar too.
    Yes, agree.

    Brigitte

    Hello again, I became curious about the defintion of a writer and felt compelled to google the REAL definition of what the world views as a writer. The dictionary explains how one needs to rite articles or stories or possiblby get paid. According to that definition, I am legally a writer. But then when I was a young girl and wrote dozens of lettters to manipulate my parents to take me home from the terrible sleep away camp, i could not be told I did not write those letters. So, in reality, I wrote and loved to write. I most… Read more »

    Brigitte

    I wanted to edit that post. But could not.
    I will do write makes no sense at all.
    I meant to say I do write.
    And will always.

    Cheryl kesterson

    I wrote a lot of stuff when I was younger but then “settled down” into being married. Later on I worked a very long time on a novel even though I had never written anything longer than about 10 pages. But my novel became 425 pages! I don’t consider myself a writer though. If I wrote something everyday then I could think of myself that way. Even though I enjoy writing I won’t consider myself a writer unless I have an income…like a job title I guess. Otherwise it feels more like a hobby. but that doesn’t take away from… Read more »




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