A question for all of my fellow (I mean that in the non-etymologically masculine sense) Amish Jihadists: What makes one a writer? Is it the simple, ‘I write, therefore I am a writer’ truism? Or, is it something else? Something more? I just want to know when it’s appropriate or inappropriate to say, ‘I’m a writer.’
For instance, I was speaking with someone the other day who had co-edited a book for a small publisher and he gleefully referred to himself as a writer.
I was speaking with a gal who was writing her second novel (she never published her first one), and she introduced herself to me as a writer.
I was talking with a guy in a local comic shop who is self-publishing his own comics (so, he has a readership of about three dozen people–kind of like myself), and he lists his career/vocation/job/who he is, etc., as a writer.
Granted, I certainly can’t imagine that one must be successful to be considered a writer, or, perhaps, that one even need to publish to be considered a writer (I guess?). There are famous writers who never published after their one big hit (such as Margaret Mitchell, Emily Bronte and Ralph Ellison–then’s there’s Salinger who didn’t publish for the last four decades of his life and he is still considered one of the seminal writers of the 20th century). And in terms of self-publishing, even folks as diverse as Proust, Luther, Whitman and Austin all paid to publish some of their works (in many major comic book companies, such as Image and Dark Horse Comics, many of those writers pay to publish their work, but that’s so they can retain complete control over the characters they create–for them, in some cases, it’s much more lucrative than writing for one of the ‘big two’: Marvel or DC).
I guess anyone can call themselves a writer and, perhaps, that’s why I kind of sort of loathe such a description. There’s a none-too-subtle pretentiousness behind it–as if, whatever anyone else is doing is so boring, so trite, so insignificant compared to the artistic genius required to make a person a writer. I mean, I’ve published nine shoddy books, a silly amount of essays, articles, book chapters, book reviews, book endorsements, an ongoing comic, I’m a monthly columnist for a magazine, I write for our local zoo, and I write this crappy blog (as well as another one), yet, I don’t feel like a writer. Perhaps that’s because I cannot sustain a so-called ‘living’ off of my writing. For instance, I had a student last year ask me during our 8am class how much money I made off of my books. I looked at her and said, “Clearly, not enough.” Who the hell would get up that early to teach undergraduates if they didn’t have to? I have to supplement my income with teaching, speaking events, and seasonal work as an actor and a lighting designer (along with the occasional foray into pole dancing–don’t hate), yet I don’t think I would ever introduce myself as a writer, speaker, actor, lighting designer or even a (tiny) dancer. But if that’s the only reason why I don’t consider myself to be a writer (or a speaker/actor/Jennifer Beals), then I feel like a bit of a schmuck. As if one cannot be a writer unless one is successful enough to live off of their writing. Granted, when I think about it, how boring and self-indulgent a life would be, you know . . . just writing. Makes me wanna say, “Go do something useful, for Christ’s sake.”
Like this guy . . .
(Click on the above picture for the most ridiculous site ever–save for this one, of course.)
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.