Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Myth Of Writers.

'A writer is someone who writes.'

I've seen this written many times, as a definition, as some kind of motivational mantra, as a badge of honour. I'm not convinced by it at all. I find it a bit like someone who removes a splinter from someone's finger calling themselves a Doctor.

Yes, I know. It's not the best analogy. Writing is quite different. There's a lot of training required to be a doctor but no qualification is necessary to be a 'writer'. Of course you can study writing and improve and receive a qualification, but when I submit a story to a magazine the editor never asks to see a copy of my university transcription. And this is true for much of the creative arts field.

Here's a better analogy.

If I met someone who told me they were a football player, my first question would be about which team they play for. If they told me they just kicked the ball around their backyard or occasionally played with a couple of friends in the park, and had never actually been selected in a team, I doubt I'd consider them a football player. They're just someone who kicks a ball around with friends.

And I think this shows the difference between a writer and someone who writes. To be a writer there needs to be some kind of validation. My writer friend defines it as someone who is paid for words. This is a more accurate description.

Last night I went to see a 'musician'. One of the descriptors used in the advertising was 'amazing', and 'as good as they get', and so on. It was a very respectable venue, and I thought I might be on to someone hot very early in their career. I must admit I was taken for a ride - a bit of false advertising. I should have realised when the tickets were as cheap as they were.

Eight people were in the audience. The 'musician' was terribly unprofessional, no stage presence whatsoever, awful karaoke style backing tracks, and couldn't play their instrument very well at all.

My friend and I suffered all the way through a dreadful support act, only to leave during the second song.

My guess is this 'musician' and 'support' (who turned out to be good friends) booked the venue for themselves, advertised it in a few places, made a giant loss on the whole thing, but can now claim to have played there on their websites.

A musician? Absolutely not.

What about someone who has knocked together a couple of thousand words and stuck them up on smashwords? A writer?

Possibly, possibly not. As I said, there has to be some validation, sales or similar that can be seen as some level of recognition.


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