Confession: It’s not hard for me to respond to Jim’s point of view from yesterday. The hard part is to focus on his published post and not the unedited one or the five related discussions we had over the last few days.
Do you want to be known as a writer? Make a difference with your writing. Start conversations. Pick a topic in an industry in which you’re knowledgeable. Be creative. Tell your story in a relevant manner. You don’t have to be paid. You don’t have to be a New York Times Best Seller. Most importantly, don’t get caught up in the romanticism of writing because it only exists in your mind.
I’m a journalist at heart even if I’m not in newsrooms anymore. Yes, I consider myself a writer. In the last week, I’ve debated writing vs. blogging in a Twitter chat, to myself and, yes, with Jim. What I’ve learned is that writing is not black and white; not like the typed word on a blank screen.
First, let’s forget the foolishness
Admittedly, there are different types of writing, but to say that writing a business proposal is no different than an investigative journalist writing a 1,500-word piece on the economy or health care is just plain laughable. What’s next? Will you believe that this three-page document is also on the same level as a book on the New York Times Best Sellers list?
As much as I would love to segue into a diatribe about the value of journalism and describe the courses I took to learn AP style and tell actual stories in an ethical manner, this isn’t the topic and it’s not the place.
The post by Tom Chambers that Jim referenced in his post yesterday was shared with me by a former newspaper colleague. I turned around and shared it with Jim because it coincidentally and humorously touched upon writing and what it means. The quote Jim chose to pull out from that post was actually the one which resonated with me the most.
Don’t be surprised if we’re not impressed when you say, “I’m a writer, too.” No, you are not. The fact that you sit in a coffee shop wearing black while scribbling in your journal does not make you a writer. Nor does the fact that you “wrote some poems in high school” or that one day you want to pen “the great American novel.”
I kept journals consistently from middle school through college. By the time I reached college, the place to find me between 1 and 4 a.m. was in a coffee shop near Ball State University drinking coffee, wearing black and writing in my journal. Even though I was taking a heavy load of journalism courses at the time, at no point did I consider my highly-caffeinated 3 a.m. journal scribbles to be writing. This was about me romanticizing writing.
The art of writing has been romanticized throughout the ages. Whether you profess to write poetry, short essays, screenplays, books or – these days – blog posts, it sounds fascinating to those who don’t write at all. Yet we have to remember that writing in itself is an art form in whatever format we choose to do it in.
Writing is … and isn’t
From my experiences, the recent Twitter chat, conversations and debates, here is what I believe writing to be and not to be.
Writing is sharing facts, thoughts and feelings with others who have similar interests.
Writing is not purely about being paid.
Writing is creative.
Writing is not completely self-serving.
Writing is accurate, abstract and/or thought-provoking.
Writing is not romantic. It’s hard work.
Writing is about quality and flow. (This is a perfect quote from the aforementioned Twitter chat.)
What’s the verdict?
So what about bloggers? I’d like to call them all into a conference room one by one and ask them individually, “Are you a blogger or a writer?” just to see what they’d say. I don’t have the privilege or the time to dissect it that way though.
The real answer is that bloggers can be writers if they aren’t just posting blog posts in coffee shops at 3 a.m. while wearing all black with the idea that only family and friends will read them.
One thing I will give Jim credit for: Writing is communication. That’s probably the biggest “is” that there is.
“I think writing is really a process of communication. … It’s the sense of being in contact with people who are part of a particular audience that really makes a difference to me in writing.” – Sherley Anne Williams, poet