Can I Call Myself a Writer?
Posted by monicamynk
I’d like to dedicate this post to the online communities who have taken me in and taught me how to write. I’m still learning some of the finer points of plot construction and comma usage, but my writing has improved exponentially since I started.
Writing forums have some disadvantages for a Christian writer, the most obvious being that you’re going to be exposed to content that you’d rather not see. From fornication at drunken parties to brutal murders in the park, sometimes anything goes. I’ve found, though, that most sites are sensitive to protecting younger members from such content and have instituted a labeling system to help them avoid it.
I joined LegendFire in June of 2012, and began posting material for critique. They have a policy that you have to critique to receive critiques, like most sites, so I researched how to write critiques, pushed up my sleeves, and dove in. I think I’ve learned more from critiquing than anything else. The admin, Raveneye, a.k.a. Court Ellyn, author of the Falcons Saga is tough, but fair, and works hard to enforce her high expectations to provide users a quality experience.
Sometime in the spring of 2013, I decided to join a second site, Scribophile. It’s a little different setup that LegendFire in that they have a karma system to track critiques. You can’t just post a hundred pieces without critiquing and dominate the forum. Their setup is a little more novel-friendly, although the turnaround time for critiques can be a little slow if you don’t get in there and actively start posting on the work of others.
I’ve joined a few others, but these are the ones I’ve enjoyed the most.
Here’s what I gained from both sites:
1. The confidence to call myself a writer. It’s apparently common to be reluctant to take on that title. A lot of writers don’t feel like they’ve earned it. I’ve come across this quote several times on the Internet, attributed to many people, writing instructors, authors, etc. so I’m not sure who gets the official credit: If you write, you’re a writer. Period.
Khaled Hosseini, who wrote my favorite book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, discussed this in an interview with David Henry Sterry from the Huffington Post. He says he was even reluctant to call himself a writer after publishing The Kite Runner.
I felt the same way. I haven’t published even one book, let alone two. The truth is, though, that writing is so ingrained in my heart and soul that I couldn’t stop doing it if I wanted to. I write in my head anytime there’s a lull. My characters take over my showers and daily drives. If I didn’t put their lives on paper, they’d completely take over mine. I am a writer. And if you write, you are, too.
2. The belief that there’s hope. When I started, my writing was embarrassing. Completely passive, no emotion or detail, flat characters, bland plot, and no sense of organization or direction. Through the guidance of helpful critiquers, I was able to chip away at those mistakes a couple at a time. I’m still making a lot of mistakes, but not near as many, and every time I start a new story, it’s thousands of times better than that first one.
That’s not to say that some of the critiques didn’t tear down my spirit a bit. It’s hard to hear how bad you are. But, most of the time, the critiquers said things like, “This isn’t working, but if you do A, B, and C, it might.”
So, off I went to research A, B, and C, with renewed hope.
Now, more than hope, I have a goal. Hopefully, by December 2020, a copy of my debut novel will be on the shelves of the local Barnes and Noble.
3. A network of friends who “get” me, and will be blatantly honest with me. It’s been my experience that people who don’t write have a hard time understanding those of us who do. It doesn’t make sense for me to set my alarm for 5 a.m. when I’m exhausted and force myself to dredge out 500 words. Even this blog doesn’t make sense–why keep a journal and make it public?
I can list about 40 people from LegendFire, Scribophile, and real life writer friends who offer continual support and constructive encouragement. Other friends do, but they sometimes just give me positive feedback and gloss over the uglies. It’s that friend who is willing to say, “This isn’t really working,” who helps me the most in moving forward in the process.
4. The motivation to keep writing. The cool thing with forums is you build connections with people who follow your work, and you can follow theirs back. So, I’m always waiting on a friend to post that next chapter, and they’re waiting on mine. Sometimes, these friends send me messages with a gentle nudge if I haven’t posted in a while, and I push up my sleeves and start writing again.
5. Password protected, online documentation for my work. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Stop being paranoid. No one is going to steal your sub-par work. Trust me. It’s not that good. Plus, the thread is going to disappear behind all the other new posts in a few weeks. It’s awesome, though, to go back to a post from six months ago and see how much the writing has improved. I have dates and times for all the revisions, and I can go back and reread the comments that led to those changes.
So, if you’re thinking of writing and feeling that self-doubt, go join a couple of forums and participate in the communities. You won’t be sorry!
‘Til next time, for another glimpse inside the Mind of Mynk