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From time to time all writers must deal with friends, family or acquaintances who look down on their craft. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of being a writer isn’t writer’s block, but the know-it-all non-writer who thinks they can churn out interesting content on a regular basis without the slightest bit of effort.

Let me spell it out for some of you non-writers in ways that you can understand: You can’t.

Some of us “bloggers” wake up early five days a week and go to jobs. Those jobs often require us to work late into the night, and that’s not even counting the time it takes to commute to and from work. That’s not including the time it takes to then prepare dinner at hours sane people don’t prepare dinner, pay bills, and handle any number of other responsibilities we have before hoping online to find something worthwhile to write about.

It’s not good enough to just write, because it has to be done well. In order to get people to return to our pages we have to have a unique voice, keep grammatical mistakes to a minimum, respond to feedback, and be willing to put in extra time finding links and videos to support our arguments. Sometimes photos aren’t readily available, or we have to Photoshop our own. We do this, and the vast majority of us aren’t getting paid to do to so—we do it because we love the written word. We love our craft and want to accurately articulate the things that motivate and inspire us in ways that will do the same for someone else.

Given the above sentiments, I hope you can understand how a writer might take offense when someone whose daily experience with “writing” is limited to text messaging his girlfriend in emoticons, or a few hastily made scribbles on a grocery list once a week, implies that he could write a blog or a book if he wanted a hobby.

Here’s the bottom line: You haven’t written a blog or a book, and you’re not a writer. Don’t pretend like anyone can do it, because it’s not true. People who write on a regular basis have a discipline that the “I could do that if I felt like it” crowd will never have, so stop kidding yourself.

When you, the self righteous non-writer, have put together a blog and delivered quality writing three times a week for at least a year, give me a call. Until then, go back to texting your girlfriend using as many acronyms as possible.

Best,

Doug

21 comments

  1. Write on, bro.

    Those aforementioned wannabe scribes are suffering from creative envy.

    Like the dude playing air guitar in the audience at a concert.

    “Hey man, I can do that!”

    But we all know what talks and what walks.

    “A writer writes not because he is educated but because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood. The writer wants to be understood much more than he wants to be respected or praised or even loved. And that perhaps, is what makes him different from others”– Leo Rosten

    1. Rosten was an interesting cat, I first learned of him in a screenwriter’s course…

      “…Rosten was a successful screenwriter. He wrote the story for The Dark Corner, a film noir starring Mark Stevens; and Lured, the Douglas Sirk-directed period drama starring Charles Coburn; both films featued Lucille Ball. He is listed as one of the writers for Captain Newman, M.D. adapted from his novel of the same title. Other films: Mechanized Patrolling (1943) (as Leonard Q. Ross), They Got Me Covered (1943) (story) (as Leonard Q. Ross), All Through the Night (1942) (story) (as Leonard Q. Ross), The Conspirators (1944) (screenplay), The Velvet Touch (1948), Sleep, My Love (1948) (novel) (screenplay), Double Dynamite (1954) (story), Walk East on Beacon (1952), and Mister Cory (1957) (story).{…} — Wikipedia

      Think I’ll try my hand at a film-noir, or neo-noir screenplay at some point.

  2. Thanks for the comments, guys. And thanks for the Rosten, Jim. This isn’t a normal post for me, but there’s been a slow drip of those kinds of comments around me as of late and I had to get it off my chest.

  3. Let’s break down this post. You basically complain that people who don’t agree with you aren’t writers, and us who criticize you should shut up unless they “write” themselves. Then you make fun of us by saying our experience consists of clever text messages.

    Great post.

    This is why I get on here and argue with you. You’re obviously a bright guy. I agree with a lot of what you write, but you often pepper smart, logical statements with inflammatory nonsense. I’m guessing your learned it from your past employer or your “conservative” news sources since it tends to get people’s attention more than rational, reasonable conversation. (Before you say it, “liberal” ones are just as guilty of inflammatory nonsense) Whenever you reply on what I call out, you generally betray your more temperate opinions and backtrack by adding “well, my readers understand what I meant.” I *am* one of your readers.

    Since, apparently, my experience consists “text messaging [my] girlfriend in emoticons, or a few hastily made scribbles on a grocery list once a week,” let me be just as snarky back:

    If you put your thoughts out there, you open yourself up to criticism. In fact, anybody can “write” if by what you call “writing” is typing opinions into a WordPress blog. If you have a comments section, put on your big boy pants and accept criticism. If you can’t take the criticism, write your conservative thoughts in your Moleskine journal and stop whining about people not agreeing with you as a “writer.”

  4. @Jim Zee

    “Like the dude playing air guitar in the audience at a concert. ‘Hey man, I can do that!’ But we all know what talks and what walks.”

    Dude, I hate to break it to you, but writing in a WordPress blog doesn’t constitute Hendricks-level shredding on a guitar, if guitar-playing is writing in your analogy. That would be the equivalent of your conservative-tinged blog poetry being on par with being a poet laureate.

  5. Dear MeAgain,

    Again, did you read my posts? “Friends, family, and acquaintances…” This post has nothing to do with agreeing or disagreeing with me. It has to do with being a writer. I don’t even consider you an acquaintance because a.) I’ve never met you and b.) you go the whole anonymous route on your comments, which is somewhat annoying…but understandable at the same time.

    The main catalyst for this post had nothing to do with my interactions with anyone online (although I can see why you would think I was talking to you). With all due respect, you don’t warrant your own blog post. Instead, this was directed at those with whom I get to speak in person—or those whom I overhear talking about me—who think writing is just a little hobby that anyone can do. The guy this was aimed at will probably never actually see it, although I hope he did notice because I shared it on my Facebook page.

    And now, it’s time for a little joke. You’re so vain, you probably think this blog post is about you…

    The thing that always got me about this song is that the song IS about him. So he was right… Oh well.

  6. I find this totally hilarious because you think writing a blog constitutes being a writer. I know a writer. She’s writing another book right now. She’s done editing jobs, majored in English, written magazine columns, keeps stacks of magazines and books for references, cites, and ideas. Basically, she’s in the industry and her work involves more than writing on a blog three times a week.

    So at least by my benchmark (and possibly others in the industry) I wouldn’t consider you a writer. Then again I don’t know you personally so I guess you got me there.

    Take care

    1. I find you “totally hilarious” because you anonymously post on my blog, admit you know nothing about my personal life or where I work, and then criticize me after completely missing the point.

      I worked at one of the most influential think tanks in the world. I now work as an editor for a newspaper, but I don’t go out of my way to advertise it on my blog. One reason for that is because I don’t think my particular resume should give me legitimacy over the other very real writers you denigrate. If someone works on a farm or they’re a nurse, but they write regularly…they’re a f**king writer, you idiot. Yes, I called you an idiot, because that’s what you are. Only an elitist jerk would try and insinuate someone isn’t a writer unless they were an English major or kept “stacks of magazines” as references. I bet Eric Hoffer wasn’t a writer to you, either…

      By the way, I was an English major and I have a Masters degree, although I treasure my time in the military and retail work much more than my academic credentials because that was the kind of real life experience that makes for a good writer. Your friend is “in the industry”? Big deal. That means nothing. Good writing is good writing.

    2. So, I just gotta write with a unique voice, check my grammar, bolster my arguments with external sources, and converse with my audience and I’m in the writer’s club?

      No need to understand topic sentences, articulate clearly, be persuasive, structure arguments, juxtaposition, foreshadowing, metaphor, simile, rhyme and meter, character development, etc.?

      Well shit, call me a writer too because of all the time I spend commenting on blogs!

    3. @anonymous,
      My definition of being a “writer” is simply one who writes (1) with serious intent (not necessarily about serious subjects – it could be comedy), (2) consistently, and (3) not as a dilettante.

      Part of the definition of “dilettante” is “…without real commitment…”, and as far as I’m concerned, maintaining a blog, which requires near-daily essay writing, constitutes as real a writing commitment as it gets.

      As DE says in this essay, writing every day about issues in a persuasive and compelling way that attracts readers is exceedingly difficult. The blogosphere has unleashed a legion of writers, and God Bless America for it, because that is what America is all about: democratization of endeavors previously smothered by elitist boobs and feckless satraps.

      What qualifies as a “good” writer is another question altogether. As for Mr. Ernst, (a) he is a Writer, and (b) he is an excellent writer.

    4. As always, you’ve added to the discussion. And, you even exposed the weakness in my argument for our elitist friend. “Good” is completely subjective, and I should have defined it for the purposes of this post. My main point was (and I’m sure you got it, but I’m spelling out for others who might run along this discussion), was that it really doesn’t matter if someone writes poetry on napkins or if their work is published and sold in huge bookstore chains, because good writing speaks for itself. And usually “good” writing is something that we can see matches the criteria you put forth:

      1) with serious intent (not necessarily about serious subjects – it could be comedy), (2) consistently, and (3) not as a dilettante.

      There are plenty of writers out there I don’t like because their style doesn’t sit well with me…but I know that they’re still good writers.

      Thanks for the compliments. The feelings are indeed mutual.

  7. You’ve mastered sarcasm, but your response isn’t an argument; it’s a slew of nonsensical red herrings wrapped in an attempt to save face after I completely destroyed you. Your litmus test for a writer seemed to be that someone had to be “in the industry,” and have a laundry list of credentials. Mine was that they essentially be a good writer.

    You also aren’t a very good “reader” since you glossed over the part where I wrote “some of us writers…” have jobs that don’t allow us time to blog as often as we wish—and that writing must be “done well” (criteria that covers all the finer points of writing mentioned in your last response).

    I’ve read some amazing writing on WordPress blogs, better than the crap that I read in many mainstream newspapers, and better than the crap I’ve seen in screenplays, magazines and published poetry. If you thought about “the industry” for a minute it might dawn on you why that happens and you’d be able to cite a few examples.

    How many successful writers didn’t become famous until after they died? Do you want me to give you a few names of writers who honed their craft in obscurity, telling people they were writers despite not having made it big in the eyes of people like yourself? How about the names of bloggers who now work for major media outlets and newspapers after being discovered online?

    Please. Stop. You’ve embarrassed yourself enough for one blog post.

  8. I can completely understand where you’re coming from, Doug. None of my friends or relatives know that I have a blog, largely because I just haven’t felt like telling them about it and I anticipate I’d get the same reaction you received.

    1. Regardless of what you decide to do, I’m glad you’re writing, my friend. I hope there are a few of your friends and family you can tell though — it’s a great blog!

  9. Thanks. Maybe I will show some of them my blog… probably wouldn’t hurt. I have to say that I feel that having a blog is helping me improve as a writer.

    1. Definitely. Writing is just like anything else — practice makes perfect. Well, maybe not perfect … 😉

      As you write you’ll “find your voice” and you’ll figure out what works for your blog, what doesn’t, etc. It’s a pretty cool process.

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