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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, August 1, 2010

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE REALLY A WRITER?

Ever get the “OMG I’m-not-really-a-writer, why-am-I-kidding-myself” blues? Agent Nathan Bransford calls them the “Am-I-Crazies.” Most of us have been there. Rejections are pouring in. Your WIP is stalled. Your BFF has refused to listen to one more word about the unfairness of the publishing industry. After a sleepless, agonizing night, you decide you’re unworthy to call yourself a writer.

Q. So how DO you know if you’re a writer?
A. You write.

If you go off by yourself at regular intervals to create stuff using words, you’re a writer. Maybe you haven’t written anything publishable yet. Maybe you’ve written a bunch of first chapters that lead nowhere. Maybe you’ve never shown your stuff to anybody but your cat. But you’re a writer.

Some people are born to it. If you’re one of those, your early years went something like this:

·       You gave names and backstories to the characters in your coloring books.
·       You wrote a whodunit in third grade in which you killed off the assistant principal who gave you detention that time when it wasn’t even your fault.
·       You poured your adolescent angst into verses that relied heavily on rhyming the word “rain” with “pain.”
·       After your first romance ended, above the emotional agony, a tiny voice narrated in your head, “So this is what a broken heart feels like, she thought, as she trudged on leaden feet toward her empty room…”

Some of you came to it later. After taking an inspiring class, reading an extraordinary book, or experiencing something that begged to be shared in written form, strange things started to happen:

·       Both your roommates went off to a party. You weren’t invited. But you couldn’t have been happier. Time alone to write!
·       You could no longer join workplace chat about TV, because you didn’t even recognize the names of the shows. Who has time to waste on television?
·       When your friends exchanged funny stories about their kids, you chimed in with an anecdote about what your protagonist did last night.
·       Writing took on the urgency of a bodily function.

Other writers are just getting started. You’ve always loved books and wanted to write, and you’re finally getting concrete ideas for the book you know you’ve got in you. Or you’ve just set up a blog. (Yes, blogging is writing.)

·       You pretend you’re looking for jobs online, but instead you’re doing research for a story or interesting things to post about.
·       You haven’t told a soul, but you’ve kind of written three chapters and sketched out a couple of scenes that might work into a novel.
·       You used to tune out when the old lady next door droned on about her tragic life. Now you eagerly note all the details for use in future fiction.
·       Your most titillating fantasies involve books in a Barnes and Noble window with your name on the cover.

Q. Yeah but… sez you. I want to know if I’m a REAL writer—can I make a living at it?

A. If you write and you’re not a wooden puppet carved by an old Italian guy named Gepetto, you’re a real writer. Most writers don’t make a living at it. Not creative writers, anyway. (Journalists are having a hard time of it these days, too.) Only a handful of superstars can quit their day jobs. Of course every one of us hopes to be a superstar some day, and nobody should give up the dream, but there’s no point in going all either/or.

Think of it like this:  

Q. How many people play golf?
A. How many of them are Tiger Woods?

Should everybody else give up golf?

Nobody starts at the top. Every star was a clueless beginner once. Learning takes time. We have to spend years—maybe decades—taking classes, studying how-to books and blogs, joining critique groups, and learning the ins and outs of the publishing business—the way a golfer works to perfect a swing. It’s a process. A really, really long process.

So before you give in to the I’m-not-really-a-writer blues, remember:

·       If your queries are coming back with form/silent rejections, you’re a writer.
·       If your WIP is refusing to come to a satisfactory end and you kind of hate your protagonist right now, you’re a writer.
·       If your neglected spouse suggests you take up something more lucrative and less time consuming, like making a model of the Taj Mahal out of toothpicks, you’re a writer.
·       If you’re questioning your worthiness to call yourself a writer—welcome to the club.

Don’t give up because you don’t have an agent yet, or your mother-in-law calls you a slacker who “sits around on your butt all day,” or your mechanic keeps asking why you don't have the money to replace that clunker.

You’re a writer.
Go write. 

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19 Comments:

Blogger Catherine Ryan Hyde said...

Yes, I agree. If you're getting rejections, you're a writer. Because all writers get rejections. Including me. And I'm not referring to ancient history.

If you're not getting rejections, you may be a writer, but you're a writer who's not sending out enough submissions.

And as far as whether you can make a living at it...for myself, I still wonder. So far so good...with a few scary patches...but I never take it as a guarantee,

August 1, 2010 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

"Don’t give up...."
Wow, I sure needed that. Thanks.

August 1, 2010 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Miss Anon said...

Thank you so much for this post! It's made me feel so much better about myself as a writer and my writings.

August 1, 2010 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

This post is so great and so much fun. Made me laugh out loud and feel pride in my stubborn persistence as a seldom published writer. I knew I was a writer when at the ripe young age of 6 I wrote;

Little leaf you are so green. Why do you tap on my window screen? If you want to come in use the door. Then maybe I can sleep some more.

Good, solid beginning, I’d say. For a 6 year old. Ha!

August 1, 2010 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger L'Aussie said...

A wonderful post which is a great spur to keep on going in spite of rejections etc. Even sending out writing which results in a rejection shows great faith. Let's all keep scribbling..:)

August 1, 2010 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Ann Patey said...

Loved the Tiger Wood analogy and can recognise myself in some of your descriptions. Thanks for a great post

August 1, 2010 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Francis Shivone said...

Well said. Helpful. Thank you.

August 1, 2010 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger Cathe Olson said...

Thanks Anne.

August 1, 2010 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

That was very encouraging Anne. I resemble a lot of those remarks - and now I feel better about it.

......dhole

August 1, 2010 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Piedmont Writer said...

I loved the Tiger Woods analogy too! Great great post as usual. Thanks Anne.

August 1, 2010 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Jan Markley said...

I've always been curious about other people's lives and wonder (and ask) what motivates them.

You know you're a writer when someone says something (witty, funny, quirky, interesting, wise) and you say - can I use that?!

August 1, 2010 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger Sierra Godfrey said...

I think you probably know that I needed this post today Anne, so I thank you. Even at my lowest low, when a wee voice whispers "Quit. Quit. Wouldn't that be nice?" I never do. I always feel the urge to keep telling stories.

August 1, 2010 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger Emily Cross said...

Great post as always ann :)

very inspirational !!

August 2, 2010 at 5:19 AM  
Blogger February Grace said...

Oh, I love this post for so many reasons. I recognized all the 'childhood' signs of being a writer (the 'backstory for coloring book characters had me laughing out of my chair...and oh, the dreaded teen poetry. Yikes. Scary stuff it was in my case.)

Thank you so much for this. Huge hugs to you for it. I'd love to stay and tell you more about all the reasons I loved it specifically but I have to go do that thing, you know, write...and I'm already running behind.

You so rule.
bru

August 2, 2010 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger Churadogs said...

That's always such a tough topic, in part, because in this country what you DO is too often confused with what you ARE. Is Ted Kooser an insurance salesman or is Ted Kooser a Poet Laureate of the U.S? DO / ARE. Tough one in this culture. Add in our emphasis on $$ -- you can't just be a GOOD writer, you must be a SUCCESSFUL (read: rich) writer. Or, most critical in our FameWorld, you must be FAMOUS. (That's often even more important than being "Good.") I suppose the ultimate question would have to be: Despite the difficulty and struggle with whatever it is I'm doing, deep down, do I really love doing whatever it is I'm doing? And given a choice between doing that or doing something else, which do I always pick? That's likely where the answer lies.

August 2, 2010 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for all the great comments. I know some of you are fighting those blues in a major way. I'm glad I could provide a little inspiration.

Catherine, special thanks for reminding us that writing involves rejection at every stage of our careers.

Christine, you wrote better poetry at 6 than I wrote at 16--by a long shot. That's adorable. And clever.

Jan, that's brilliant--can I use it?

Chura, You're so right. This is one of the reasons we try for publication too early--our culture identifies us by what we do for bux, instead of who we are. Ted Kooser, insurance salesman/poet laureate is a perfect example.

August 2, 2010 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Elaine AM Smith said...

Well said! Written ;)

August 3, 2010 at 4:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I NEEDED this badly 15 years ago when I first put shakey fingers to my keyboard. I still NEED it!!! (I write almost every day)
I love your blog Anne Allen!!
Sherry Heber

August 3, 2010 at 6:10 AM  
Blogger LR said...

Late comment to this one, don't know if you'll see it. This was a great post.
It's amazing (scary) how convincing that "who am I kidding?" feeling is while you're having it. At least it helps to know that almost everyone gets it sometimes, even established authors.

August 6, 2010 at 12:44 AM  

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