Writing And Other Writerly Activities

Perform a quick Google search for the criteria for calling yourself a writer, and you're likely to find any number of requirements. Do you have to be published before you can call yourself a writer? Are you a writer if you pump out genre fiction, or are you a writer only if your works are shelved in literary fiction? Are you a writer only if you obsess over your craft to the point that you neglect everything else in your life—your relationships, employment, and health and hygiene? Are you a writer only if you get paid for your work?

So many possibilities.

Let's keep it simple since you know that's how we roll at Flirting With Nihilism. For the sake of this post, a writer is someone who writes. It's as simple as that.

The next natural question would be, What counts as writing? Obviously, writing requires the act of writing itself. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Writers write, after all.

The act of writing is undoubtedly the most important part of writing, but there are a number of other writerly activities that contribute to the craft.

Editing

Some people will roll their eyes at this one and let out a big Duh. But editing is one of the most hated writerly activities. Everyone wants to believe his first draft will be a masterpiece, but deep down we all know that every work needs at least one run of revisions. If nothing else, we need to take the opportunity to sniff out any sneaky typos.

I know I need more practice in editing. Perhaps I should turn that into a goal/resolution for 2020.

Reading

This one is pretty obvious. If Rule #1 of Writer Club is that you must write, then Rule #2 is that you must read. Why you would read works similar to your own writing is straight forward: doing so gives proper influence to your writing. But it's also good to read outside your genre, for diversity's sake.

You can also read books about writing or style. Nerd alert! While I have my own opinions about writing, I almost always take something away when I read a style guide. If nothing else, I may discover that I don't agree with certain writing “rules” in style guides, which makes me feel like a bit of a rebel.

A silhouette of a woman raising her fist into the air Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash.com

Journaling

I find journaling to be meditative and reflective. The practice helps me to clear my mind, which clears the path for writing. I've recently concluded that in the past I was unable to write because my head was a mess. I had too much stuff—mostly anxiety—bouncing around up there with no healthy outlet. These days I try to get all that bother out on paper.

Journaling helps to give me structure. I tend to lean on my journal for keeping track of events and appointments while my digital calendar is more of a backup. Also, a journal is a great place for retaining working material. A journal is easy to flip through, which simplifies the process of rediscovering old ideas. Digital solutions are fantastic for archiving complete works, but I do not find them ideal for browsing and rediscovering ideas. Digital solutions can be too organized for some uses.

Over the last few years, I've heard many claims that writing by hand helps with memory and also with uncovering deep thoughts and feelings. While I understand and appreciate the value of working with technology, I often find myself going back to the old ways.

Observing

Where do your ideas come from? I'm not a very original person, so I get my ideas from what I observe in my day-to-day life. My mind is almost always taking events in and processing them. I'm always looking for little tidbits wherever I can find them.

I especially enjoy observing people and their reactions to events and situations. People are usually my favorite part of my favorite stories. I'm convinced that if a story has great characters and style, I'm in for almost any adventure or misadventure. I'm further convinced that, at least for my writing, these characters are not created but found, observed in the wild and brought to life for others via words on the page.

Writer's groups and events

Over the last few months I have been to a few writer's groups and happy hours. I'm embarrassed to say I've yet to share any work as my ego isn't ready for the hit, but I've always left these events inspired after hanging out with others with the same interest, whether they pursue that interest as a hobby or as a profession. Writing is usually a solitary act, so it's nice to be among others facing similar struggles. And sometimes it's nice to simply be among other people, as even the most hardcore introverts need social interaction from time to time, no matter how much they may try to avoid leaving the house unnecessarily.

Going to a writer's group or event would fall under the category of “inspiration”, something which writers could always use.

Most days I don't write as much as I know I should. Sometimes it's because of poor planning on my part, and sometimes it's because life simply gets in the way. In order to compensate, I try to refine my other writerly skills so that I'm getting better in some way every day.

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