Friday, November 18, 2011

What Makes a Writer?

"The Thinking Cap"

I love this art by Leah Saulnier, and I thank her for permitting me to post it here. Isn't the depiction of those "light bulb" moments wonderful? Ms. Saulner's delightfully whimsical thinking cap houses all of those wonderful, creative ideas that flow in and through the windows of our minds, yet the look on her subject's face implies that this is pretty serious business. She has really sparked my imagination, and I like where this piece takes me.

Having just completed the 1,000th post on this little blog o' mine––and as I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were) to create my annual Christmas story––the process of writing has meandered through the windows of my mind to the extent that I want to explore it a bit. Sharing Leah's work with you today affords me the perfect excuse!

On another blog recently, there was some conversation about how a person knows he or she is a writer. My own answer is fairly simple: You know you are a writer because you can't stop writing! In other words, the act of writing has become a necessary part of who you are, to the extent that you are compelled to capture your thoughts and feelings on paper in order to make sense of the world. It is both your mechanism of understanding and your reflexive response. It is comprehension, contribution, and resolution. It makes you real.

I must admit that this particular (self-coined) definition is fairly new to me. Being someone who has held a pencil in her hand and poetry in her heart from a very young age, it still took me a long time to think of myself as a writer. Mrs. Russell, when I was seven years old, was the first of many fine teachers to tell me that I was "quite a writer," but taking any of these people literally never occurred to me. When I was asked to write a little story in fourth grade and came back the next morning with a near novel about Helen Keller (as told from the POV of her right eye, no less!), it never occurred to me that this behavior was unusual. I journaled and rhymed and prosed my way through middle and high school without ever considering the possibility that I might be a writer. I was just "someone who liked to write," and I was told many times how difficult (nigh on to impossible) it was to get published.

Once published, I still found it hard to claim the title. Publicists introduced me as the "author" on my book tours, but even that didn't put me over the top. I simply didn't think of myself in those terms. It call myself a writer. Happily for me, things have changed, and time has wrought a miracle. Today, I not only call myself a writer, but I have a card! (Here it is, Polly. I told you I'd post it!)
I'm even including the case...
So here's the question: When does someone go from being someone who runs, to a runner? Someone who paints, to a painter? Someone who plays an instrument, to a musician? Someone who takes pictures, to a photographer? Personally, I think it's when those individuals begin to own the essential nature of that activity in their lives...when it becomes or is recognized as a visceral part of them.

All I know is this. For me, writing is a gate to myself...and when that gate is open, words flow like sweet, sweet honey...making all the right sounds stick together and holding me together, too. The only thing better is praying, but then writing is a form of prayer anyway, isn't it? Because it brings the writer into communion with that Source from which all creativity is derived.

No matter what your particular medium of communion with the Source is, I wish you great joy in it. As for me?...Back to the drawing writing board. Christmas is only 36 days away, and I always like to get that story done before Thanksgiving!



karen said...

I love this Sue! I'm going to forward this to my son. He's another one who "likes to write," and lately has been wanting to hone his skills a bit.

VK said...

I understand your being reticent about calling yourself a writer. I feel like I'm pretty good at several things without saying I am one of those. i.e.: musician, chef, seamstress, and the like. It just seems boastful or something.
You are, however, a writer for sure.
I enjoy being a recipient of your writing.

Brian Miller said...

one day i will be a writer...smiles. ah i figure call me what you want...i think that one thing or skill set that does seperate is when you think about the way you are going to say me that is craft...

Eva Gallant said...

I tend to think of myself as an aspiring writer...Can't yet consider myself full-fledged!

Sue said...

Good point, Brian, about craft.

(And if you aren't a writer, NOBODY is!)

A writer, a poet...and I'm sure the list goes on!


Garden of Egan said...

Great post.
You SHOULD call yourself a writer though.
You write and you write well. People read and enjoy you.

It's a creative outlet.

5thsister said...

Yes! I love this post. So true on so many levels. Love you, Sue!

Darlene said...

Anyone that can put words together as you do, is most definitely a WRITER. I am glad you have finally taken ownership of that title.

As for the Christmas story, I am really looking forward to that, as I do every year. Surely you have enough of them by now to send to your publisher. Just because you write on your blog every day, it shouldn't preclude your continuing to get some of your articles, stories and poems published by an honest to goodness publisher. You should definitely publish a book of children's poems and have it properly illustrated. Weren't you going to do that at one time?

Your writing ability did show up at a very early age, Sue. I always knew you could write well and wondered just where that facility would take you. It helped with every undertaking, I think. In truth, it has served you well.

Dixie Mom said...

I have always wondered the same thing! I applied to be a smart wool represent their clothing and they wanted to know as "athletes" what we'd do to help teach children how to enjoy their surroundings. Well, I had a hard time considering myself an athlete...although I love hiking and do it every day...I still couldn't quite grasp that. Maybe that's why I didn't win. :)
But I definitely consider you a writer. I considered myself a professional scrapbooker when I made money doing it and found myself published in books and magazines. So there you go...
Either're a writer in my book!

Pondside said...

Wow - that was well timed for this blogger! I just had a conversation with someone who is a well-known actress in this country, and she told me that there was a moment that she's never forgotten, when as a student with one film under her belt she was introduced (by me - in a casual conversation!) as an 'actress'. She said that this was when she really grabbed the profession for her own.
One day, perhaps I'll be a writer, but for now I feel lucky to have found wonderful and worthwhile things like this post to read!

yaya said...

I really enjoy your gift of writing that you share here. I don't have this talent because I'm usually stumbling over finding words to put into a comment! But I've stated many times I do have the gift of being an eternal "appreciator" of other people's talents!

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

Sue being the person that you are I know it took you a while to call yourself a writer but honey I think you are not only just a writer but a darn good one. I know many times you have blessed my day by your writing so I am so lucky to have you in my life.
I wanted to come by tonight and thank you so much for the uplifting and kind comments and of course all the prayers for myself and Christi.
Because of these prayers and comments we both are healing. It has been the hardest time of my life and I need help so I can talk about it and will someday.
Your a dear friend and great writer and I thank God everyday for knowing you and your lovely Mom.

anitamombanita said...

That's how I feel about photography. It's hard for me NOT to photograph my surroundings...AND to always want to improve my craft, not just snap snap snap. So I make conscious decisions about what I shoot and how I shoot I guess I'm agreeing with Brian too.

Same thing about being a runner, even though I haven't run much lately....and won't be for months if we don't hurry up and get that treadmill... I still think about it every day and miss it when I don't do it.

You are definitely a writer and a poet. Ya gots skills, woman!!

Grandma Honey said...

According to the book I'm reading now, 'The Talent Code''s all about passion. Those who want to and have passion for it, succeed ...whether that be running or writing or whatever.

And besides, Sue, you are a writer. No doubt about it.

verna said...

Thankful for writers like you who uplift. I am sure many people are lurking on this blog and you have lifted far more than you know. You will for sure keep writing and I will for sure keep reading. Looking forward to the Christmas story too!

Terra said...

Oh Sue I so so so get this! Sorry it took me so long to come back and comment, I read it the other day and just sat pondering the thoughts. I have a neighbor girl who is so excited and can't stop telling people about the books, she is way more excited than even I, I haven't arrived yet in my mind...

Lolamouse said...

Congrats on your blogiversary! I agree that you are a writer when writing is a part of your self-identity. It has nothing to do with making money at it or how accomplished you are.

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