I’ve been trying to figure out where the notion of the writer’s life as glamorous got its start. I know as a kid, I thought being a writer was something special, probably because then as now, I read a great deal.
What I read astonished me. I was impressed and enraptured by writers’ ability to teach, transport, and soothe me. But I admit that, though writers always said being a writer was a hard life, a hard job, I didn’t believe them.
I thought it was a glamorous career. And an easy one.
But where on earth did I get that notion from? Where’d other people get it from?
Maybe it’s not a sense of glamour that attracts wannabes, but the desire to be listened to. Just wanting people to pay attention to what they have to say. But I’m not really talking about writers, but about the people who say they want to write, but don’t have even a modicum of commitment to it. I see that a lot.
The students I teach in my writing classes who never proclaim they want to write are the ones who write. They are the ones with specific plans to write specific things, and if they lack ideas, they write from the prompts I give them.
On the other hand, the ones who on the first day of class talk a lot about writing something (it’s seldom anything definite), and then publishing, rarely write anything at all.
I’m getting so I can spot them, not that I’m always right. There’s something furtive and mumbling about them, or even if they speak up, they talk in vague terms. In fact, they often talk a lot—in vague terms.
Sometimes a dead giveaway is the assurance of these non-writing students. They talk to the class about their idea. If you listen carefully, you notice that they often confuse research with writing. And they always, without fail, without having written a word, want to know about getting published.
(I’m not referring here to hard working writers who need to take a break, exhausted in mind and body by their projects, their creativity temporarily spent, so they put writing aside for a while.)
I wish I could wrap up this post with some wisdom, but I can’t. Saying “All you gotta do is start—even a single sentence is progress”— doesn’t move those who just want to have the book they haven’t written published; they want to have written it. But since I can’t move them, all I can do is be thankful for the classes with the students who, every week without fail, bring in their writing to read to us, no matter how short a piece it is. Bless them!
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