Wednesday, April 8, 2009

which writer are you?

I've been thinking a lot about writers and what makes them tick. I think there are two very basic types - those who are born to write and those who are self-made. The first discover early on that they have a penchant for pen and paper and would rather write than do anything else they can think of, maybe even eat. You don't have to pay these writers to write - they just write for the sheer joy of it. To them, the act of writing is reimbursement enough. Dollars have nothing to do with it and never will. Often they have to discipline themselves away from writing. It takes precedent over everything. Their problem lies in keeping their priorities in place. These are the folks who "write by ear," so to speak. They may know next to nothing about story arcs, pacing, characterization, and 'the big trouble' that should surface early on in a book. They find that knowing these things are interesting but unnecessary. They are able to craft a solid story, a novel, without outside influences or help. They are hard-wired to write. If you took writing away from them, they would have a hard time with life as writing is their life.

Then there are the writers who come to writing as if by accident or later in life. They like words but aren't driven to put them on paper. A writing class or book about the craft sparks their interest and they begin to seriously study the mechanics of writing. Or they read a book and think they can do better. They are creative and ambitious and persevering enough to complete the task. Sometimes they have to make themselves meet a daily word or page count and find it hard to show up every day and write. Often they have many other interests and do those things equally well. If you took writing away from them they would simply go on and do something else with the same determination and enthusiasm. These writers make good writing teachers. Their head is stuffed full of the mechanics of writing and they are able to convey what they've learned to others. They are living proof that if you try hard enough you can write or publish a book.

Which writer are you?

I remember soon after my first major label album was released I was doing a radio interview, and the DJ asked me how I write songs. It's a question I have heard repeatedly over the years. My short answer is, "I don't know how not to write songs."
-Michael Anderson

I never wrote with the idea of publishing anything, of course, until I began working on Mockingbird. I think that what went before may have been a rather subconscious form of learning to write, of training myself. You see, more than a simple matter of putting down words, writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer. There are people who write, but I think they're quite different from people who must write.
-Harper Lee

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