To tell or not tell

snoopyTo become a Writer is arguably the most common hidden dream of the average person (or beagle) on the street or in the cubicle. So when someone actually takes the plunge and decides to try to fulfill that long held dream, there are a number of critical questions to ask, among them…

  • What should I write about?
  • How do I get an agent?
  • Do I have what it takes?
  • Should I quit my day job?

And one that can be very perplexing for the neophyte scribe:

  • When people ask what I do, should I say I’m a writer?

True, anyone who puts figurative pen to paper can claim the title.  By definition, a writer is one who writes. End of story, right?

Not so fast. Something about calling myself a writer feels arrogant. Faulkner, Austen, Dickens, Seuss – now, those are writers. How can I possibly claim membership in such an elite club?

Okay, let’s reason this out, weigh the pros and cons, mull over the upside and downside. (I’ve just said the same thing three times. Would Faulkner have done that? I submit to you that he would not. Seuss, maybe.)

Consider the advantages. Everyone you inform becomes part of your network and a potential advocate. You never know who’s a friend of a guy who once dated a literary agent’s cousin. Boom! You’ve got an in with no more effort than telling the truth. Less concrete but maybe even more significant is the way claiming to be a writer builds your resolve, your commitment, your sense of being a writer. What we call others – including ourselves – goes a long way in determining how they view themselves. I’ve given this concept some thought and even wrote about it in a post on my other blog. (Interest piqued? Check it out here.)

As you might expect, given the structure of this article, we also need to examine the drawbacks of so bold a declaration. First of all, it might not feel like a fit unless you’re somehow getting recognized for your efforts, either in the form of remuneration or publishing. There’s nothing like a little legal tender to make one feel worthy of one’s title. That’s a lie of course, but it’s how the world works and how we too often feel.

The greater negative from my perspective as a person who shamelessly wears the scribe’s moniker, is that anyone and everyone then feels they have the right, indeed the responsibility, to feed you their brilliant ideas for stories. This is an excellent and surprisingly easy way to lose friends and alienate relatives.

You’re a writer? You should write about my grandmother.

I’ve always thought the lives of trash collectors would make a great story.

The most dangerous unwanted sources, unfortunately, have been my Christian friends. They tend to give me not their ideas, but God’s. “God told me you should write this story!” This immediately conjures up several questions: How do you say no to God? Why didn’t I hear God tell me to write that story? Why didn’t he tell you to write it?

Example: Someone once approached me and told me God had given her an idea for a Christmas play. Of course, He wanted me to write it. I won’t divulge the entire plot, though I can tell you that the story wouldn’t have taken more than ten minutes of stage time. Suffice it to say that the denouement of the play was nearly everyone in the cast frying in Hell. Wouldn’t that enliven your Christmas spirit?

While I managed to restrain myself from jumping all over that killer idea, I did go so far as to come up with a couple of potential titles:

It’s a Wonderful Death

Have a Helluva Christmas!

writerI get my revenge, however. Anyone and everyone I encounter are story fodder. It just happened here. The person did in fact give me a helluva basis for a blog post. It might not have been her intention but, last I heard, turnabout is still fair play.

It’s not all bad. Some people have given me excellent prompts for stories. Even then, though, if my heart isn’t in it, there’s little chance I’m going to spend much time thinking about it. Most often, I jot it down as a note for future reference.

I never know when I’ll want to write about the trash collection lifestyle.

3 thoughts on “To tell or not tell

  1. So, my earlier suggestion to you about killer tress trying to nab unsuspecting bikers off the BFRT and drag them into Hell through the porta-potty at Heart Pond isn’t a great story idea? Aw, shucks.

  2. Pingback: The Voice of God | Limping in the Light

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