When I was in school I endured many writing workshops (public mental beatings) where I had to showcase my work and listen to what each of the students thought about it. I was to sit there quietly and nod my head as if to say, wow, you’re making a really prolific point right now and I completely appreciate it. Most of the time I did appreciate the critique. Other times it seemed that some of the people in class felt they had to say something negative because the guy next to them did. It’s happens online too.
If a weird smell travels slowly through a room and the first person to comment has a scowl on their face as they cover their nose in disgust and the second and third person follow, you may feel like an utter douche saying, “I quite like the smell actually.” Because somehow by acknowledging this questionable scent as good, you have now implicated yourself as being a weirdo. But me, I like weirdos. They make life interesting. Weirdos are usually good writers. Why? Because they don’t care what anyone thinks. They want their reader to be engaged, of course, but they’re not consumed by that.
The problem is, writers (artists in general) usually carry the burden of a stubborn ego. It can get in the way. We like to feel good about what we put out into the world, even though some of us may say we don’t care. We do. We are people. But we mustn’t be distracted by the need for a response. We live in a terrible time for people who need constant back patting and attention–they spend the only hours they have to be productive on thinking and trolling.
I have less of an ego about my art than I ever did. I’ve known rejection and I have experienced what it’s like to put things out to the world that never amount to much. These raw, vulnerable times have changed me. I now don’t spend much time wondering what people think or if it will ever be something bigger than it is. Do I sometimes wake up in the middle of night and think, man I suck. Sure. Don’t we all?
But the next day, if I am productive and I do what it is that I say I’m going to do, the little fire inside flickers and any self-criticism is fanned away from the flame. It is beautiful to write because I love writing. Am I rich from it? Hell no. But as one workshop professor once said, “Most of you will never make any money doing what you love.”
So, if you have ever questioned whether you could be a writer or not, think about this: Do you write without intention, without an endgame, and with blind sincerity and passion? If so, then you, my friend, are a writer.