Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What makes you a writer?

I live in a town rife with weird people, hipsters, artists, yuppies, hippies, yippies, dippies, stoners, boners, phonies, bronies, furries, and freaks. Yes, Austin is all that and more. But there's something else that has been pointed out elsewhere that bears repeating.  For some reason everyone in Austin calls themselves writers. Oh, there are quite a few writers here, to be sure. But it seems that everyone has, or is working on, the great American novel/screenplay/world-changing-poetry. The majority of them head to one of Austin's many coffee shops with their laptops, camp at a table, and sip their double-espresso-mochachino-soy-non-fat-whipped-latte while they tappy-tap-tap on their keyboards. Do you have any idea how many coffee shops there are in Austin?  Not counting Starbucks? Like, a billion.

The life-blood of writers...
And for many of them, the lure of free wi-fi and comfy seats are what draws them to the coffee shop, and that's fine. The writing muses know I don't function without coffee in my veins (not stomach, mind you, veins... I'm known to hook up an IV...), and while I can't function in an environment with so many distractions, I begrudge no one their own writing process. You do you, boo.  I'll do me.

Pictured: Kevin Hart Wisdom
But there's another group that sits at coffee shops. I'm talking about the douche-bag wannabes that show up so they can make a great show of "writing" in public. Keep in mind, if you go to coffee shops to write, and actually write, I'm not talking about you.  Jog on. But, sitting near the writers, is that guy.  You know the one. I'll give you an example. 

I was at a coffee shop once, not to write but to drink coffee. As I said, I can't work in coffee shops. A fellow walked in with his hair swept up in a man-bun/topknot, an unseasonal scarf (it was summer), a wispy beard, and converse high-tops.  He was also carrying a black case, the like of which I've not seen in years, and hope to never see in motion again. He ordered his coffee (I wasn't really paying attention at this point because, as I said, I don't go to coffee shops to write) then sat down at a table.  From the case, he pulled, I kid you not, an old Royal typewriter. 

One of these bad-boys...
The first thing anyone should know about a Royal typewriter is that they're noisy as hell. I mean, they are as jarring as gunfire. Second, there is no spellcheck, no correction, and, in many cases, no auto-return.  And when you do hit return, it jars the whole table.  He loaded his paper and began his aural assault.  The writers (the real ones) that were there were greatly annoyed.  Especially when he struck up a jaunty (and loud) conversation about his latest opus, and how it was probably to forward-thinking to ever get published by a mainstream publisher, so he'd probably have to self-publish it. 

Pictured: Rage Rising
I'm not sure if he was a writer, a wannabe, or a performance artist who was parody-ing all the writers that hang out in coffee shops.  In this case, however, it was fairly obvious that whatever he was, there was one additional thing that could not be denied.  He was an ass-flapping douchebag. 

So how, I hear you ask, can I tell the writers from the non-writers?  How can I tell if I am a writer? How can I not be like Douchy McDoucherton who will assuredly win the Putz-Puller Prize of the year? Calm down.  Listen... Here's how you tell the real writers from the not so real writers. 

In my experience, most writers (in coffee shops and otherwise) are very focused on their work, and dislike being disturbed. They don't loudly talk about their work, and you rarely see them look up from their keyboards. Why? Because we're writing. Sure, we're perfectly willing to talk about our projects, but when we're working, it's not a good idea.  See, it takes a while to get into the headspace we have to be in to be creative. And if you break that concentration, we can't pick up where we left off... We have to try to get back to that place. 

But here's how to know if you are a writer:


No, really.  You don't go to show off how creative you are.  You don't draw attention to yourself in hopes that someone will want to strike up a conversation about your work. You don't act like a snob about the type of coffee or beer or whatever. You, in fact, sit your keister in a chair and you put fingers to keys, and you write. End of story. You want to be a published author? You have to write something first. You're not a writer, no matter what you do, if you don't write. No matter what you wear, what you drink, who you talk to, what school you go to, or how many books about writing you read, you are not a writer if you don't actually sit down and write. 

So, see? It's easy to see if you're a writer.  Do you write? Yes? Then guess what.  You're a writer. By definition. Now the question is this: What kind of writer do you want to be? Bloggers are writers. Critics are writers. Novelists, poets, short-story-writers, all writers. So I guess that answers the question in the title of this post. What makes you a writer? You write. Period. What makes you a good writer? Honing your craft, educating yourself, and about a million other little things. What makes you a successful writer? Opinions vary.  Is it two parts luck to one part talent to sixteen parts tenacity? Maybe. But if you don't sit down and write, you aren't any kind of writer. 

And leave the goddamned antique typewriter at home. 

Until next time...


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