Guest Post: Are You A Writer, or Aren’t You? By Carrie Cuinn.

Carrie Cuinn is a writer, editor, small press publisher, computer geek, and amiable raconteur. In
her spare time she reads, makes things, takes other things apart, and sometimes gets a new tattoo.

She has an impressive collection of published fiction and non fiction and has been a guest on SF Signal podcasts multiple times.  Carrie created Dagan Books which, by the end of 2012, will have 6 titles out in print and ebook (including Wendy N. Wagner’s Debut novel, Dark Depths).  Her website is www.carriecuinn.com and you can follow her on twitter @CarrieCuinn.

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My best friend as a habit of saying, “You can be a writer, or you can be something else. Which one are you?” He doesn’t mean that you can’t have a day job, or hobbies, or friends, or a family. What he means is, if you’re going to be a writer, be that. Being a writer isn’t an outfit you can put on a few times a year when you’re heading to a convention. It’s not just something you tell your coworkers over lunch, or use to get more Twitter followers.

It’s who you are.

Writing once in a while takes nothing more than having a story to tell. Sometimes, not even that.
Writing consistently takes time, and a commitment to write even when you’d rather be doing something else. Writing well requires an interest in dissecting your own work, as well as reading – and learning from – other people’s writing, which takes more time. You have to be willing to see your own flaws.  You have to want to grow as a writer. You have to know that even when you’re not writing, you will write again. Soon. You need to, just as you need to eat and sleep and breathe.

Being a writer isn’t just about the effort you put into it, though that’s certainly an symptom. It’s about
the difference between someone who imagines, occasionally, being an author, with an agent and book
deals and movie options, and someone who can’t imagine being anything but a writer.

Think of it this way: a lot of people have gym memberships. Some of them will go once a month, if
ever, but keep paying the fees because they like the idea that they could go to the gym if they wanted
to. These people don’t improve their level of fitness. Others go to the gym more regularly. They have a
routine, which they usually stick to. Most of the time. Their work might show results, but they ‘re not
in the gym every day. They don’t study the latest lifting techniques or worry about how their nutrition
affects their performance. They don’t consider themselves “bodybuilders” or “athletes”. They’re
teachers or housewives or firemen or … something else. Going to the gym is just something that they
do.

A lot of people write the same way.

There isn’t anything wrong with writing part time, with writing as a hobby. I have hobbies too. I study
art, cooking, science, business, roller derby … which all sounds good, on paper, but the truth is that I’m curious about too many topics to focus on them all with the same passion that I give to my writing. I usually have a couple of different projects in the works at any given time so I can rotate between them (a habit I developed to make sure I actually finish what I start instead of giving up before it’s done). I’ve got a degree in art, and another in art history; I can balance my checkbook and run my business and I’ve heard that I’m a pretty good cook.

But I’m not accountant, or a chef, or a derby girl.

I know who I am. I’m a writer. It’s how I see myself, every single day. It’s the thing I keep coming
back to, in between whatever other project I’m working on. Sitting down to write is the reward I get for going to my day job, for cleaning my house, for finishing my to-do list. When I read, I take what works and I hold onto it, letting it inform my own stories, in just the same way that I remember what didn’t feel right to me so I can avoid it.

I am a writer.

My friend, the one whose question started this all? He’s a writer too. How about you?

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  • Trisj

    Excellent post. 

  • Simon C. Larter

    I’m a writer. It’s the only thing I can imagine doing for the rest of my life, but is simultaneously the thing I find it hardest to do consistently. But the rewards…ah, the rewards.

    (And no, I’m not talking about vodka.)

    • Carrie Cuinn

      Yes, this, exactly. It’s impossible to do both well and consistently without lounge it so much that you can’t imagine ever truly giving it up.

      • Carrie Cuinn

        Ah. iPhone. I meant “loving” not “lounge”.

  • Herbert Peters

    I am trying to redefine writing as ‘knowledge organization and human memory programming’ so even story becomes engaging readers in problem solving. So writers research into problem solving ideas for readers.

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