Discuss: “Real” Writers

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Are you a “real” writer?

This may be a question that is snarkily posed to you by someone wearing hipster glasses or brandishing a glass of their own home-brewed beer. When presented with this question, it would be wise to carry around this flowchart from Chuck Wendig’s blog. And once you have presented the chart to your inquisitor, you should probably follow up by telling them what a silly question that is to ask. It is quite clearly explained on Chuck’s handy chart that the only criteria there is for holding the title of “writer” is that you simply write. I happen to agree with this explanation. Anything that comes along with writing — such as being paid, getting published, or earning awards — are simply perks. Are they good perks? Yes, most definitely. And I’m sure that all of us would like to achieve those perks at some time in our writing career. But once we do, that will not mean we are any more “real” than we were when we were typing away in our parents’ basement.

I think this distinction is an important one to make because when people go brandishing about the gatekeeping title of “real” writer, it scares away beginners. This whole conversation, in fact, reminds me of the “real” fan discussion that is often bandied about on certain blogging platforms which shall not be named, but may be missing a letter in their name that would normally be there. Oftentimes, people who join “fandoms” at a later date than others are deemed “not real” fans. I don’t know what this is meant to accomplish, but it’s just plain silly and makes those people feel bad and it sort of yucks their yum, which just makes me sad. The same is done when some in the writing community lord their so-called “realness” over other writers.

Now, Chuck’s chart does give a writer who has been paid a different title: professional writer. But that does not mean that they are more “real” than someone who does not get paid to write. It simply means that your writing is probably your profession. But if you get paid to write, do you feel more “real” than you did when you were writing for no pay? Money should not be the qualifier that means you have crossed over from one side of writing to another. Writing and actually producing material should.

What do you think about this? Do you agree with Chuck Wendig, or do you think that paid writers are “real” writers? Have you ever been accused of not being a “real” writer? Share your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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