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You have balls to call yourself a "writer" you fucking loser

In Reasons on March 9, 2009 at 7:09 pm

I didn’t let on to anyone that I like to write for twenty-eight and a half years, give or take a few agonisingly illiterate ones towards the very beginning. I didn’t think I was good enough (still don’t) to even suggest such a stretch. And yet I wrote. I always wrote. I didn’t save it, I didn’t submit it anywhere, I didn’t show it to friends, but if I wasn’t quietly self-destructing through abuse of hallucinogens and bad relationships, I wrote.

To oversimplify in the extreme, there are three kinds of writers (and multiple combinations thereof):

  • Those who think they can write because they’re literate (not writers)
  • Those who just write (writers)
  • Those who write, but require external validation to own it (writers or, more hopefully and precisely, published authors)

To write you have to insulate yourself. You can’t read bullshit opinion pieces like this and expect them to validate your feelings on the matter. You have to ignore everyone: friends, lovers or otherwise. You have to be insular, but at the same time you can’t afford to disconnect from the world of experience – the madness and suffering around you – lest your writing turn into a narcissistic bloodbath (just see my blog). So maybe you create filters. This does not advance my thinking, that does. This suits me, this can fuck off.

Judgement of worth is a tricky bitch, especially the poor judgement you heap on yourself and your output without remorse. When you’re high, you think I’m brilliant, the next [favourite famous author]. When you’re low, your best work seems trivial and mundane at best. Who are you to dispense justice based on your flighty moods?

Writers are ordinary people who write because they must. Because not much of anything would make any sense otherwise. The form their writing takes externally means little. Whether it is stashed away under the bed, in a desolate corner online, or a best-selling paperback. Who cares? As long as someone reads it and even if no one reads it.

This feels obvious, and yet if someone outside of you – an agent, a publisher, a literary journal – doesn’t validate your writerliness (it’s a word now, bitch), can you in good conscience call yourself a writer?

Why the fuck not?

If you have the scars to back it up when someone calls it in to question (and oh, they will) why the fuck not?

I’m a writer because I think and feel in words, because I’m not wholly human unless those fuckers are gushing from my fingertips or burning my retina. Because the time spent on other activities seems an irreconcilable waste that makes you want to poke your eye out with the nearest sharpened number 2 (or HB to you Brits). Because my eyes and ears and hands, my body parts exist to write. A touch dramatic perhaps, but you get me.

But mostly it’s because I fucking say so and because, luckily, I live in a world where basic needs are foregone conclusions and the pursuit of such things as writing and calling yourself a writer becomes possible.

The race for cash or an existence free from workaday stresses so you can concentrate on writing is laudable (arguably) but ultimately secondary. There’s pen and paper everywhere and if you want to write you just do. You spit on the wall, on your hand, on yellow post-it notes, laptops, in book margins, on canvas, on your forehead, your stupid iPhone, public toilet doors, in trains, on the soft, sweet bellies of the people you’re fucking and their bedsheets.

And well, if you want to publish my self-indulgent novel and sell me a few hundred copies and still that’s the proof you need, then pretty for you. But you don’t make me what I am. I don’t even make me what I am.

I’m a writer and this is what I wrote. No more or less meaningless or worthwhile than all the shit you do day to day to make your own ordinary existence feel less frightening and lonely.

Ani Smith. Editor of PIFFLE. Writer of Down In Me and Fuguestate. Fuck-up extraordinaire.

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  1. Amen sister.
    I’ve been writing since I was a kid.
    I have notebooks of shit from decades back.
    I’ve been writing on the internet even when nobody was reading it.
    I just have to.

  2. Very noble. I mean that sincerely, and in admiration. I too have written for a while but it’s only recently that I’ve stopped worrying about validation.

  3. writing chooses you

  4. See, there’s the manifesto for this site – and more importantly, what should be the manifesto for anyone who writes – put most pithily: “We are writers because we fucking say so”.

    Exactly. There is too much shit talked about ‘being a writer’. What ought to be talked about is the conviction, the need, to just do it. To just write. End of.

  5. Cheers, all. This was interesting. I’m not used to expressing a one-sided opinion so out and out. I can think of a million reasons I’m wrong up there at the same time knowing I’m not. Am I just wishy-washy? I don’t know.

  6. Oh P.S. Gordon: I didn’t say I don’t worry about validation. :)

  7. the sweet bellies of people you’ve been fucking…

    ahhh

  8. “I’m a writer because I think and feel in words” – cuts to the chase, don’t it?

  9. i really liked this when i first read it. however, my favourite bit of all may be:

    ‘I would love it if you, in a wholly caring way, went there and stomped the argument full of holes and then laughed maniacally and maybe slapped it in the face medium hard and called it daddy’s little whore for a bit.’

  10. I agree that what makes someone a writer has very little to do with being published or validated or even appreciated. Some writers like to throw around Bukowski’s quote: “There is only one final judge of writing and that is the writer.” I agree with Hank. But he did not mean that everything we type isn’t judged or should not be judged. It should be and is. And sometimes we should listen. I’m cool with that. I think what Hank was saying is that you can’t change for other people, be true to yourself and all that shit. That’s all. Maybe there is some amazing writer out there who types away day after day after day and has a dozen novels stuffed in a drawer that would blow our fucking minds but we’ll never get to read it because this person is a selfish prick. That’s possible. But what an asshole. We write for ourselves, absolutely, and that alone makes us writers. But we also write to be read, to share our twisted dreams with others, and to provide chub slaps to all who request them, Ani.

    Niiiiiiiiice

  11. well said and i never throw around bukowski quotes never

  12. Otto: Ooooh, thank you for the slap lovin’. May I have another? ;)

    That’s exactly what I was thinking when I said ‘who are you to dispense justice based on your mood’ – I should have gone deeper into that, but didn’t: while it’s true that the ultimate judge is the writer, that judgement shouldn’t stand in the way of making the writing available (where possible) and letting the reader (again where possible) judge for himself (but not for the writer). Luckily for us this is possible and relatively easy right now.

  13. this is really good

  14. I like your point about the writer who calls himself a writer so he can feel good about himself, seeking to justify his consumption of oxygen. I think that you might be that writer.

  15. I’m way late to the party but needed to say,

    Fuck yes.

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