That Kind of Writer

Every writer knows at least one person who has been writing a book for several years, if not for the duration of their entire life. Isn’t there a saying about that, in fact? There’s a novel in everyone?
I’ve met a lot of these people. One in particular has been working on the world’s greatest literary masterpiece for the last twenty-two years. Recently, she sent me an email to let me know that she was having trouble getting through my book because it was “so poorly written.” My response: “Which one? I’ve published twenty-one of them.” (It happened to be a book from my sole print published series, as print is all she will read.)
In that moment, I acknowledged an epiphany that had been tickling my brain for attention for quite some time. There are two kinds of authors in this world. The first consists of arm-chair worshipers of the printed word, so devout in their antiquated study of letters, they revere them to the point of not wanting to touch them. Words are sacred and must not be penned by anyone but the most worthy and preferably holy. And so, it’s best not to pen them at all.
And this is exactly what they do. They trudge through life with pen in fist, notebook under one arm, and a book bag filled with Nabokov and Tolstoy – not writing a single readable word.
The second kind of author is very simply: The writer.
I should make it clear that what I consider to be a true writer is also a gifted writer, that special person blessed by the inexplicable ability to take the alphabet by the balls and force it to make absolute and unequivocal sense.
The writer is not an individual concerned with the shiny laminated cover of a newly born hardback novel. This is not that scholarly mumbler who dreams of high-brow edits amidst coffee stains, tobacco and absinthe. This is not a Tolstoy reader.
This is the individual who can not wake without penning a dream, who can not go anywhere – anywhere at all – without a chewed writing utensil and a clean, promising sheet of paper. And if he or she is caught without them? This is the individual who will literally bother a complete stranger for them or even go so far as to purchase a new pen or pencil on the spot in order to write down a few precious, un-ignorable words.
This is the person with seventy-two journals lining their shelves, for whom the greatest known compliment in the world has nothing to do with clothing or hair or body shape but is that elusive kind word having to do with their written work. This is the fevered scribbler, the paramount paragrapher.
This is the Marquis de Sade, so possessed by the buzzing, incessant words in his tortured soul, he literally bled them out like demons, using his own red life giving liquid as the ink for the writing that spared him a worse death than any French prison might have cast upon him.
A writer does not write as a hobby. It is not a pastime. It is not something we do for lofty dreams of being recalled classically or included in tired English lessons.
Writing, quite frankly, is an obsession.
People often ask me what they can do to become a successful author. Knowing that they’re referring to “being known,” and to “selling big,” I tell them that if they are a gifted writer, it will happen. In this day and age of free press and the electronic book, there will be no other option. A writer will be so distracted by the need to tell their story – nay, their multiple stories – and tell them well, he or she will have no choice but to publish, and publish a lot.
You get enough well-written published books under your belt and guess what? You’re successful.
That other class of author, on the other hand? Will staunchly insist that despite your public success, you yet know nothing about the words you write. Because as they are worshiping those sacred words from afar – you have the words strapped down to your bed and are making love to them like mad.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to That Kind of Writer

  1. Jennifer says:

    Freaking awesome. Beautifully written and well said!

  2. Staci aka Patches says:

    So Elegantly Written and So True! You, Heather, have such a way with words I Love to read anything and everything you write.

  3. Adrienne says:

    I loved that smack down about which of your 21 books your criticizer was referring to; frankly, if you’re criticizing to make yourself feel better instead of to be constructive, then you deserve what you get. Also, I got the most hilarious image in my head with your last sentence, of the stereotypical college professor alongside this super sexy man like in your books. It’s the difference between those who can do, and those who can only analyze how others do. Loved it, and your books are in fact made of awesome!

  4. Esmer says:

    There will always be stupid, selfish, envious people in this world, and I’m glad you told one of them off. I love your books. I hope that your Kings and Wolves series are turned into movies…imagine how awesome that would be. I hope your next book in the King’s series is out soon..can’t wait.

  5. Alexa de Carvalho says:

    Bloody excellently put! I know you can sometimes get writers who do honestly struggle a bit with certain phrases where a more learned person might find it easier, and yet.. if it gets the story across why does it matter so much to everyone to criticize when they haven’t proved they can, or can’t even do better. I’d honestly suggest to the person, instead of criticizing, if they are so good with words, then why do they not simply correct them in mind and read on peacefully.
    I’ve had people write to me where the sentences seemed worse to me than what a toddler could do, and yet I corrected them automatically in my mind, and made no issue of it. I guess some people just want to be nasty and get under other people’s skins, claiming they’re the better breed.
    So sorry to hear that even you got targeted by such. 🙁 We all love your writing and keep reading because of it, so never stop!:D

  6. Christine says:

    I come across literary snobs all the time in my workplace, I work in a library and there is a certain attitude towards popular writing sometimes . I was helping a lovely young man choose a book last week. He was very specific about what he liked to read. I think he was concerned that I would judge him if he told me what he really liked to read so to open him up a bit (so to speak) I told him I liked to read paranormal romance and erotica (it’s so nice being 50, I can say what I like to lovely young men because I don’t care what they think of me anymore). I told him that the most important thing to me is that the characters are easily accessible to me, that I can’t guess what will happen next and that I spend far too long with my head stuck in my Kindle when I have more important things to do because I am desperate to find out what happens next. Heather’s books tick all those boxes for me plus much more . To me they are like a really good and long conversation with a best friend about my most intimate thoughts and feelings. The best therapy in the world.
    And the proof is in the pudding.

  7. Andrea Black says:

    Dang. Well said. and I have been afraid of the arm chair worshippers :I but i do love Tolstoy 😀