A writer is defined as someone who has written a particular text or someone who writes any variety of mediums as a profession. The definition, however, does not include people who take their laptops to coffee shops, talking to everyone who walks by about the amazing, culture-defining book that they’re working on, while never actually managing to produce any actual writing. Usually, if something is actually produced (perhaps a chapter is finished in the year it took for them to make friends at their local Starbucks), it’s the kind of cliched, formula writing that wouldn’t making a passing grade in a high school sophomore English class.
But undeterred by their lack of output and/or lack of quality output, these “writers” feel free to tell everyone and their mother what a deep thinker and interesting person they are, just because they’ve typed a few keystrokes in a Word document. Their “writing” revolves around letting everyone know that they’ve written something and without constant fawning from friends and loved ones, they would lose interest in the subject entirely.
When I signed up for a creative writing class at Thomas Nelson, I was excited to think that I was in the class with people who also loved to write. The first day, I sat there waiting for the class to start while the other students around me started talking about how much they write and how much they love to write. One said that they had written a “short novel”, another said that she had written a book chapter by chapter that was so compelling that all of her friends demanded that she finish it so that they could find out what happens. I thought about how wonderful this class was going to be with all of these creative people in it.
Then the peer-editing started. The girl who had claimed to have written such amazing, intriguing chapter books, didn’t know the first thing about formatting fiction or using quotation marks. Her writing was all one gigantic monster block of text that was difficult to read. Her dialogue looked like this; “Where are my shoes? Mary asked, I left them over there.” At first I thought that perhaps her mechanics were weak, but her writing was strong. It wasn’t. There was nothing in her story that a 12-year-old couldn’t have written.
Later in the year, I questioned the student who had written the “short novel”. He confessed to me that he had written 30 pages during NaNoWriMo, missing the 50,000 word goal by about 40,000 words and hadn’t looked at it since he had finished it. This had been the longest thing he had ever written. I thought maybe he preferred short stories. So I asked him what other things he’s written. He said novels. Which made me believe that either he didn’t understand the length of a novel or he never actually managed to finish anything.
Other highlights of the class included when someone returned a poem I had written where they provided an edit that I had used the wrong form of “there”. I hadn’t. When we were going over short story a young woman wrote out the worst emo short story I have ever read and you know how many I’ve read. The story revolved around a girl about to attempt suicide deciding on the best way to let her friends and family know that this all could have been avoided if they had been nicer to her and that her suicide was actually their fault. At the end of the 2-page story the friends and family of the emo heroine talked about how wrong they were for not treating the main character as the special, amazing, completely important person that she had been.
On the final day of class, I was walking out to my car with another student and he said that he was worried about his grade. I asked him why, and he said that he hadn’t taken any of the feedback that the students had given him, including corrections on typos and grammatical errors. After turning in his portfolio he had started to question whether or not that was important in writing.
In college I was TA-ing a screenwriting class. I had taken the class a year before, so I was already familiar with the format and the projects. On the first day a guy (keep in mind that this is a women’s college) showed up wearing a black baseball cap that hat the word “Writer” stitched into it. When the teacher asked all of the students to introduce themselves, the “writer” said that he had already written several screenplays and was looking forward to honing his amazing writing skills with this class.
On the first day that an assignment was due, the man read out his scene, which was so dull and cliched that I can’t even remember it now. But as he read out his script, he included his character’s thoughts in the action section. Unless there is a voice over, there is no way to hear the character’s thoughts during this time. His “expertise” continued to fall apart during the class.
Also, I have this thing about people who have to walk around declaring that they are something or believe in something. If you are something then there’s no need to announce it. People will know that’s what you are by how you act. I have never needed to tell anyone that I’m a Hello Kitty fan. The plethora of Hello Kitty items that are always on my person are usually a dead give away. I’ve never had to tell anyone that I believe in treating animals with care and gentleness because my actions speak for themselves. If you have to tell someone that you are something enough times to get them to believe it, then you’re probably not.
When it comes down to it, you have to be yourself. If you want to be considered deep and intellectual, then actually put the work in that’s needed to accomplish that. If you want people to think that you’re creative, then actually nurture your creativity and produce things that are creative. If you’re looking for a social group, then find a social group. But no matter how easy it looks to take your laptop to Starbucks and tell everyone about the novel that you’re writing that might never get past the second chapter, resist the urge. Don’t be an imposter. You are far better than anyone you can pretend to be.