How to tell if you’re a real writer

Jun 6, 2016 | Everything Else

There are “writers” and then there are “real writers.” Evidently the second group is a superior subset of the first. I hadn’t thought much about the difference until I was asked to judge whether a particular person was a “real writer” or not.

Merriam-Webster offers the following short definition of “real:”

: actually existing or happening : not imaginary
: not fake, false, or artificial
: important and deserving to be regarded or treated in a serious way

Two friends of mine asked for my judgement of whether a third friend was a “real writer.” I’m not known for my social savvy or emotional intelligence, but even I could see that there was no way I could answer that question safely. So I mumbled what I hoped was a gracious excuse and slipped away.

I kept thinking about it, though. What exactly makes a person a “real” writer? I don’t claim that I have the only answer, but here’s what I think you should look for.

Real writers write

I’ve met a number of people in my life who seem to think that what makes you a real writer is talking about what you are going to write. Nope. If you’re not actually writing you can’t be a real writer.

Real writers work at the craft

Nobody has enough natural talent to make it on talent alone. Writing is a craft. Real writers make a conscious and intentional effort to become better writers. If you’re not struggling to master the craft, you can’t be a real writer.

Real writers re-write and re-vise

Good writing takes work. I’ve done a few pretty good first drafts in my time, but I’ve learned that Ernest Hemingway was right about first drafts. If you’re not re-writing and revising until your piece makes your point and reads smoothly, you can’t be a real writer.

Real writers finish

Finishing is hard. It means deciding that you’re not making a piece better any more. It means meeting deadlines if you have them. If you’re not finishing projects and moving on, you can’t be a real writer.

Now it’s your turn

What do you think? What makes a person a “real writer?”