Thursday, July 30, 2009

When Do You Become A Writer?

Again, I thank you for all the insightful comment I got from my previous post – “Where Am I?” Each one of them is like a brightly-lit candle to guide me in my search for clarity. My humble thanks.

My search so far had led me to this:

“My desperation of becoming a published writer had me pushing myself to a corner. The result is my creativity froze up and the stories no longer sparkle.”

While writing up the “Where Am I” post, I have also started a Q & A session with myself.

Q: When does a writer become a “writer”?

A: When I have a short story or a book published by a prominent publisher.

Q: What if you have 1 short story published by a little known journal once? Are you a writer or not?

A: Probably not …

Q: So when do you think you’re a writer?

A: Maybe when I have more stories published … maybe when I’m earning my living from writing … maybe when both my ideas and prose flow without effort …

Q: So you don’t know when you’ll be a writer?

A: (Silent)

Q: Or you have another sixty millions rules to fulfil before you become a writer?

A: (Silent)

Q: You know what? If those are your criteria, you’ll NEVER be a writer because whatever you do, you’re never there!

A: (Silent) (I could feel tears coming up.)

Q: Sorry mate, you can cry as much as you want, but I’m going to throw you these …

You have let all these rules and the idea of a “published writer” take away the things which make you write …

You write not because you want to be a “published writer”.

You write because you enjoy the “high” that you got when you finally know what the story is.

You write because you love to see that your writing language takes on a new shape after hours/days/months / years of writing stories.

You write because you love to be amazed and amused by creativity.

You write to see what else has been buried deep in your core, your soul and your spirit.

You write because that is what you do.

A: (Silent)

I’m putting a halt to this Q & A session as I have realised something.

My mind has been so fixed on publication as the final price that I had undermined every one of my writing achievements. I have extinguished my own creative fire because I mistook publication as the ultimate energy source to fuel my writing. I was wrong! The source was never ever from the outside. It came from within. It came from the sparks, the “high” and the discovery which writing had brought me!

I won’t say that this realization had swept away all my frustration. But it helped to “re-claim” my creative self.

Also on second thought, I don’t think the frustration will ever be totally gone. As a creative being, we are always seeking new horizon of our chosen art form. And with each new adventure, we’ll always encounter new problems which will always lead to new frustration. Hence, frustration is inherent in all creative acts. Perhaps instead of viewing frustration as something that is ugly, horrible and negative, we should welcome it. For it signifies that we are embarking on a new journey.

I think this should about conclude my journey to understand creative frustration. I thank you all my dear, dear fellow creatives for listening and sharing. But most of all, for catching me when I fall. I'm eternally grateful!


WrightStuff said...

Well, if ever a post was written by a true writer that was one! It sure helps the rest of struggling too. I think the trouble is, that unless you are lucky enough not to have to worry about earning enough to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head, you always have in the back of your mind the financial gain thing. We would both love to be able to make a living from doing the thing we are passionate about. And, from what you say it seems that the order of the sentence is where the trouble starts. 'Make a living' comes before 'doing the thing we are most passionate about' and you know what that means don't you? Numbers, financial spreadsheets - yuk. Enough to take the spark out of anybody. So, we put this pressure on ourselves to create something worthy of publication, to suit a certain market, fit a publisher's specifications and yes, naturally a little of the oomph goes out of it. I guess that like anything else it just takes practice. After all, there's plenty of evidence in a book shop to show that others have managed to overcome their creative blocks. We need to find a balance somewhere perhaps. Not sure how, but let me know if you find out! Oh yes, and by the way, if you've had something published then you're definitely a writer; if you write a blog that people the other side of the world tune in to read then you're definitely a writer. You're just not earning a living from it yet. I'm watching a TV series about the pre-Raphaelite artists. At the moment they are peniless yet creating masterpieces that are still recongisable as among the greatest artworks today. Have faith! Phew that was long! You are making me late for work again!!

Chapter Forty said...

OMG, you are a writer! Say it to yourself. And then say it again. That is what you are doing. Dont let the value of money stop you seeing yourself for what you are. What you do and love to do. You write and you do it beautifully.
Try not to be so hard on yourself. Find an inner voice that is nice to you and listen to that one. Ditch that mean tough inner voice that is giving you such a hard time.
I've only just found your blog and read this post. Its convinced me to read your archive. Well done.

Holly said...

Hip Hip Hooray! Congratulations, Hybrid J!

This is you. And, the static you feel? That's the itchy place that requires us to create something out of it. The trick is not to turn it on ourselves so it bites our heads off!

Write stuff indeed you do! And, Writestuff, I liked your comment here very much.

Kavindra said...

Very powerful dialogue with yourself. Good job! And I agree with the other comments, you ARE a writer, just reread this and other posts.

I think it is human nature to need some outside validation ~ publication is validation, yes, but so is reading your stories to friends and putting posts on the internet and having people ooh and ahh. And yet, any outside validation is only going to take you so far, as you so wisely found out by sitting yourself down for a Q and A.

May you keep enjoying the process and the product just for it's own sake. And may you continue to "publish" here for us!

PS I have actually had a few poems published, and while I felt like you before that happened, let me tell you, publication is not the be all ... then the voice starts saying "well it's a stupid journal that published you" or "you should never have submitted that, now it's published, and it wasn't polished enough". The inner critic doesn't stop until we take matters into our own hands anyhow ;)

Sarah said...

You are a writer!! I guess to me - who loooves to write too.. you are a writer when someone else values what you offer up...not necessarily with cash - although that is always nice..but it touches them somehow. Isn't that the whole point of touch make a connection? You do that so very well!!
I guess I consider myself a writer, being published is kind of a nice treat. Keep doing what you are doing girl!!1 Keep writing from the heart!!
Let Fly, Sarah

sophie said...

It's such a difficult question to ask yourself isn't it? I truly believe, though, that one is a writer if they write, which you clearly do!

Publication is merely sharing that writing with others in a more public sense.

These are my conclusions for myself, anyway. :)

judi said...

I paint, I wanted to be a "professional" so i sold lots of paintings. Am I a professional
now? >>let me tell you a story.. I took a painting class when I was five, free ,offered withing walking I attended. We painted with cheap tempera paint on newsprint donated by local newsppaer. I painted some banana leaves. The "Adults " conducting he class thought, as a practical,joke..they would submit a slide of my painting to the Louisina State Profesional Artists Juried Annual.. it was accepted.Of course they didnt exhiit it. 29 years later, when I was 34 I was once again accepted into the exhibit.. on the form it asked how long I had been painting "professionally" I put 34 years.. no one ever commented

You ARE a WRITER because YOU SAY YOU ARE> Only YOU can know when you "became" a writer


Angie said...

Dear Hybrid J,
my post was on something very familiar, but you did it with such guts! You really spoke out, no need for the tears, because like me you know who you are, a writer, its just that we forget or question ourselves because we don't see results from doing something we love so much.... like you said, you haven't published yet, but is the final destination, the end result of what makes you who you are, a creative?
I would like to think that as a writer you will keep on doing that,write, because you love it,it's your passion,it's who you keep following your dharma, your lifes calling, as I do and listen to that voice it will lead you to where you want to go.

Barbara said...

Dear Hybrid J,
Yes, I love this post-- the exploration of how it feels to write. The spark! Thanks for your comment on my post and believe me, I'm still having the same existential crisis,too. But in the end, you know who you are and what makes you want to wake up in the morning. No one can take that away from you. Keep writing! Because you're a writer! You just proved it. Set little goals for yourself and achieve them. Pretty soon, there'll be no stopping you. Hugs, Barbara