The ramblings and musings of author and musician Geoffrey Young Haney.
Much more coherent and loveable fare from his wife, Michelle.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Get The Job Done

Lit agent/blog rock star turned published author Nathan Bransford wrote today in this post on his writing process that:

"as long as you get the job done you're a writer."

The idea of that hit pretty profoundly after I read it. What does it mean to be a writer, after all? Is it writing a book? A blog? A poem, a short story? Is it having that piece read? Enjoyed? Discussed? Published? Or does it boil down to the effort behind the craft. The dedication to the piece.

All of us would-be authors struggle with the question of "what makes a writer" pretty regularly. I've seen it around the blogs I follow. We struggle with needing some sort of affirmation that we are, in fact, writers, whether that be a published work, a lot of Twitter followers, a healthy dose of positive feedback, a cover blurb from an author we respect, a slot on the NYT Bestseller's List. We sometimes become consumed with these future prospects that we forgot about what we're doing right now.

And what we're doing right now is writing. Burning the candle at both ends to create something for us, because we have no other choice. Writing is like breathing. At the end of the day, most writers write because of this. They don't write to make money, they don't write for an audience, they don't write to win awards. These are by-products that the successful ones can enjoy. The rest of us - right here, right now - are simply doing the work. And whether we go on to sell Rowling numbers or leave the piece locked in a filing cabinet never for the world to see, we are still writers.

That being said - and what challenged me about the phrase - is that if we don't do the work, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the world's apparent disregard of our writerly-ness. Imagine saying "I'm a doctor" and citing your collection of ER DVDs as if they were a medical degree. We read and we study and we fret over becoming a writer. We think because we know what should be done - because we've learned how its been done - that we are now writers. But real writers, published or not, do the work.

Staring down the next few months towards December and the release of The Sons of The Moon, I have a confession to make. I didn't feel very much like a writer this weekend. I had ample downtime - time alone in the house even, which is a miracle - and I instead spent that time watching TV or movies, watching stories unfold instead of making my own unfold. I'm not saying a bit of relaxation is a terrible thing, not at all. What I'm saying is to do the work means to have a level of commitment others do not. If one proclaims to be a writer, than one must be willing to write, no matter what distractions are presented. I've set goals for myself and my writing and this weekend I skirted them.

I'm not beating myself up in the post, or saying that watching or reading other stories is wrong, I'm simply saying that for me, for the commitment I've made to be a writer, I have to find a better way to manage my time. Because being a writer means doing the work.

What do you think? Do you struggle with the idea of what it means to be a writer? Are you doing the work to reach your goals?

I'll be back later this week with part II of my Inspirations Week Day 3: The Movies. Until then, have a superb evening!



Jennifer Hillier said...

Happy to have found your blog!

I believe a writer writes. You don't have to write every day, but I think a working writer has a goal and some kind of plan for reaching it (as opposed to someone who says they're a writer but doesn't actually write anything).

Writing is something I feel compelled to do. I honestly feel weird if I don't write for awhile.

Geoff said...

Thanks for sharing Jennifer!