Jessica Ingold


I'm Not a Real Writer

Posted by Jessica Ingold on January 23, 2016 at 1:50 PM

There's a lot of writing advice floating around out there: read anything you can get your hands on, keep a daily journal, never leave home without a notebook. The Internet is bursting at the seams with how-to columns and motivational quotes, productivity hacks and educational blogs geared towards aspiring writers itching to launch their careers. If there was ever a time to embark on the (self) publishing journey, this is it. Thanks to a noticeable uptick in web-based self publishing services, everyone and their neighbour now has the capacity to share their stories with the world, thereby infusing the market with a deluge of fresh, new voices. Make no mistake: the era of creative autonomy is here to stay. And it is glorious.

Being a writer means the world to me. It is the lifeblood of my identity and the cornerstone of my career. The pen is mightier than the sword and words have saved me more times than I care to admit. There has never been a time in my life when the sight of someone grinning at something I've written has not caused my soul to sing. And now, at 24, I know without a glimmer of a doubt that I will always be in love with my craft. Certainty is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

I'm a writer. But according to conventional wisdom, I'm not a real writer.

Real writers, I'm told, write every day. They hole up in the privacy of their office, alone, and churn out page after page of blistering prose. They ponder the validity of their art continuously, chiseling away at society's preconceived notions one keystroke at a time until their name rises like cream to the top of every search engine and bestseller list. Real writers, apparently, do not have any other obligations.

Here's another thing: real writers, they say, are seldom self-taught, and the successful ones are merely flukes. Real writers go to school and enroll in creative writing programs. They receive grants to cover their expenses while they toil over their literary masterpieces. Real writers have agents, go on tour, and attend book signings. Real writers get real press coverage from real industry publications. Real writers get paid to write. Everything else, I'm told, is just noise. Make believe. Wishful thinking. A soapbox for the misunderstood. A hobby.

If everything I just said is true, then clearly I'm not a real writer at all.

I've tried it all: the daily drudgery of keeping a journal, pouring my insecurities onto the page in exchange for a few fleeting pearls of inspiration; the halfhearted hunt for the latest and greatest writing apps; the frenzied search for writing fairs and conferences that don't require representation by a recognized publishing house. I have tried, with no small amount of apoplexy, to establish a regular writing routine and concrete word count goals, only to end up slumped in my chair staring at the screen wondering why I torture myself in this way. After all, I'm not a real writer. All my deadlines are arbitrary and self-imposed. No one is waiting for my manuscript with money in hand--in fact, I'm lucky if I break-even on my investments. You can't put a price tag on passion, but that doesn't make it worthless.

Let's get real: being a writer is a terrifying prospect. Unlike other careers, it doesn't follow a predictable, linear trajectory. Either you strike gold--the right words on the right desk at the right time--or you end up facedown in the mud. There are no guarantees. I have always known this, and yet, here I am again, typing furiously in hopes that my words will somehow catapult me from the trenches of obscurity into something deserving of being called real--even if it's just for a minute.

I'm not a real writer, but I sure as hell feel like one when I type THE END at the bottom of an 85,000-word document. I'm not a real writer, but you'd never know it from the size of my smile every time someone likes, shares, or retweets one of my trite revelations. I'm not a real writer, but you'd never guess if you saw how many notes I've squirrelled away in shoeboxes and drawers, certain that these handwritten musings, hastily scribbled on whatever was handy at the time, will one day find their way into a story, poem, or blog post. I'm not a real writer, because I'm too busy enjoying the journey, rather than the destination.

I'm not a real writer, so for now, I'm going to cut myself some slack, pour myself another cup of coffee, and relish the freedom of an empty agenda--because when nothing is real, anything is possible.


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