Real Writers Do

Published June 26, 2012 by swankivy

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Tenth issue!  Every tenth issue I figured I’d make a long one that goes beyond four frames.  Here’s the first.

Writers all write differently.  Some plot everything out; some write by the seat of their pants.  Some work better with deadlines or obligatory word counts; others are inconsistent binge writers.  Some write everything in their heads and revise and think it over until finally writing it down, and some find out what’s happening as it’s appearing on the page.  Nobody’s technique is superior.  If someone tells you you’re not a real writer or not a true artist if you don’t [blank], it’s likely that person is a lot more caught up in the mystique and image of “being a writer” than in the magic and power of writing itself.

Not all writers are going to relate to or “get” everything in this comic, even.  It’s struck a chord with some people, and there are probably others who have sniffed and thought, “THAT never happened to me” (and possibly concluded, “this webcomic chick is stupid”).  Rest assured, this is mainly autobiographical, and it is supposed to reflect my experience, not suggest yours should be identical.

In conclusion, I will now share some of my favorite quotes from other writers on writing.

“You put a character out there and you’re in their power. You’re in trouble if they’re in yours.” –Ann Beattie

“But keep characters in propinquity long enough and a story will always develop a plot.” –Keith Miller, The Book of Flying

“The bad novelist constructs his characters; he directs them and makes them speak. The true novelist listens to them and watches them act; he hears their voices even before he knows them.” –André Gide

“Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” –Red Smith

“Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking. ” –Jessamyn West

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.” –Ernest Hemingway

“It’s not as if the stories merge to a point where you think they are your life, but you do let them in the front door and the back door, and it’s okay that sometimes certain characters stay for dinner.” –Tori Amos, Piece By Piece

“Now and again thousands of memories converge, harmonize, arrange themselves around a central idea in a coherent form and I write a story.” –Katherine Anne Porter

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – – – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” –Pearl Buck

11 comments on “Real Writers Do

  • Always liked the Red Smith one . . . and since I’m not masochistic, writing went out the window :b (btw, why’s the a-hole in the first panel a southpaw?? Always keepin’ a brother down.)

    • My comic is an equal opportunity representation of a-holes. If everyone I present as an a-hole in the comic were to actually be included to suggest that I think people with that trait are a-holes (and “keeping them down”), I therefore seem to have insulted an awful lot of ages, genders, and ethnicities. Would rather have my comic be diverse in many ways, even when largely populated by people with opinions and attitudes I’m mocking, but that’s just me.

  • I love this strip! (Well, I love all of them, but this one especially.) It’s so true that people create these “rules” about writing and if you don’t abide by them, then you’re not a “real” writer. (This is part of the reason why I disliked Stephen King’s On Writing.) Who’s to decide who’s a “real” writer or not? Like every creative outlet, writing is a different experience for everyone, and we should all be free to write however we choose.

    I can completely relate to the quotes, and the drawings are as cute as ever! ^_^

    Also, I realize I said something about an acquaintance of mine “calling herself a writer” in my latest email, but that wasn’t about the way she chooses to write, it was about her attitude toward it. I have a lot of issues with this girl’s attitude toward various things. She’s the one I hoped would never become a doctor.

  • Heh – when it comes to the last one I’ve heard the reverse far more often. ‘You’re not a ~real~ writer if you don’t let your characters tell the story’.

    I’ve also had a friend who doesn’t write (or only writes very, very occasionally, anyway) lecture me on why my writing would improve if I switched to longhand. Apparently it’s ‘scientifically proven’. What.

  • Writers write. Published writers submit, and sometimes edit. I like the five rules of writing.
    1. Write.
    2. Finish what you write.
    3. Submit it for publication.
    4. Once finished, do not edit except to specific publisher’s/editor’s request.
    5. Keep submitting your writing until it’s accepted.
    and of course
    6. Cash that check while it’s still good.

  • I relate to this SO MUCH, because I participate in NaNoWriMo every year, and every year there are sad NaNoers posting on the forums going “I heard I’m not a real writer if I don’t do [X, Y, Z]! Now I feel horrible about my novel! What should I do?” and every year I say (or hear other sensible people say) the same thing:

    A real writer writes. The frequency of the writing is irrelevant, and so is the amount you’ve written, what you’ve got published, or how many stories you’ve finished.

    Also, if you didn’t slap the person who told you you have to drink to be a writer, you are a far better woman than I. I’ve written a few things while tipsy (sometimes it helps me focus juuuust enough to actually sit down and type things out), but how does that person expect ex-alcoholics to write memoirs? Or strict Muslims/Mormons? Or anyone else who, for whatever reason, doesn’t or can’t consume alcohol?

    • I’m sure he was just kinda kidding, but at the same time he seemed to be pretty sold on the whole “writing culture” idea. To him, writers are the way they are partially because they drink together, and he thought I would be unable to tap into something he “needed” alcohol to tap into if I didn’t drink. The only thing I guess I can’t be part of if I don’t drink is his little mini-culture, which is limited by his own preconceived notions.

  • I found myself wandering through back issues on my lunch break today, as I’m doing a different kind of creative writing at work at the moment. Whee!

    You were noting that a lot of people may think, “THAT never happened to me” (and possibly concluded, “this webcomic chick is stupid”). A lot of things you mention here about writing never have happened to me, but I have not once thought you were stupid because of it. Okay, duh, I’m you’re friend — but I sure hope other people who are just passing by are not that mean.

    Most of the things you described in this issue have never happened to me. I mean, I’ve definitely heard discussions on such writing methods as you describe here, but happily, I’ve have never come across anyone so judgmental that they said a writer MUST be a certain way or else they aren’t a writer. In fact, one thing I like about writers is that in general they seem to be a pretty laid-back and tolerant bunch. Are people really this mean somewhere out there? (As long as you aren’t getting in the way of their writing, of course!) But I don’t frequent NaNo boards and the like, so I’m sure there are trolls I’m missing….

  • Back when I was visiting classrooms, reading my stories to the kids and answering their questions, one teacher hijacked my presentation to talk about her friend who was a “real writer”, a published one . . .

    As a self published author, I wasn’t a Real Writer. That hurt, and I felt deeply resentful of her implication. Happily, her students didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t traditionally published. And even now, after many years, if I see these kids, they remember my visits and my stories.

    If you write, you are a writer. Period. Even if you never publish a word of what you write.

    • That’s pretty awful. Especially the thought that a teacher thought that was a good idea, to invalidate you in front of children. Obviously self-publishing is a different thing from the traditional formats, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t done something worthwhile or don’t have a decent product.

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