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What does being a writer mean
James Still Not Writing in His Journal

Yesterday I received a comment on my blog post titled "Am I Truly a Writer if I don't Keep a Journal" (or something to that affect) with the person saying they have the same trouble that I do and sort of adds the caveat that life is so busy actually being a writer that getting into yet another routine of practicing writing is far too demanding of time and etc.

I have to agree with the justification because the fact is that I have four kids (two from a previous marriage and two step kids) and am very luck to currently be able to earn my living ghost writing books (though with the current economy that may be in question) so I don't often feel as if I have 20 or 30 minutes during the day to which I can devote to keeping a journal.

Though, I should add that this whole line of thinking has come about because I am yet again trying to keep a journal. Nothing too fancy or time consuming, but a brief record of thoughts and daily events. And as true to form, I have quite a few missing days, but I am NOT letting that make me think that I may not be up to being a journaler.

But anyway, this whole notion of allowing to oft advised journaling meme to be at least a portion of the definition and what it means to be a writer, has led me to this notion of wondering what does it really mean to be a writer? If I were to define being a writer as meeting all of the expectations I had for my writing when I was young, which includes keeping not just a journal, but a profound journal, then I would certainly have to admit that I am not the writer I envisioned and since most of my writing credits come in the form of ghost written books, then I could even make the argument that I am not actually a writer, but a scribe for others (and right noe not feeling as if I am much of that, but that is another story).

And yet, I write every day to the point where my mind is exhausted if not my body and I lay awake most nights feeling guilty for all of the short stories (my favorite form) that I have not yet written and books I have not yet published (though I do have one, sort of, to my credit [go to www.orchardwriting.com to see an example and I would LOVE feedback]) and the many other writerly things that I have not yet done.

And as I lay there I wonder if perhaps I should have tried another profession to support myself while I did these other writerly things so that I could emerge one day as the full fledged writer I aspire to be. I don't know the answer to that question yet because I don't really know how the story turns out. And I worry that I will lose whatever jobs I may currently have and that all that I have so far built could fracture due to actions and activities beyond my control (such as an editor or author that provides poor writing direction and etc), and I worry that I am not meeting the expectations of authors and editors and the people who have a vision for what they want that I am somehow supposed to pull from their minds, and I work harder to be sure that I am doing what I do the best that I can, and then I do sneak some time to write or add to a short story or send something off to an agent or story contest, and I read about writing and I read books....and at the end of the day as I lay there thinking and fretting I realize that if there is one single truth to all of this, it is that I love what I do and I love writing and the thrill that I STILL get when I see something I have written published, even if my name isn't on it.

And so, I suppose that this is what it means to be a writer, to live the writer's life because it is about constantly wondering how to do this thing that we love better and to receive enough remuneration for it to survive, maybe even thrive a little bit, that it is possible to keep moving forward.

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All writing is writing

Hi James:

Once someone had commented that he did not blog because it took away from valuable writing time; I think any writing is valuable.

It was a journal - the old-fashioned way on a writing pad - that has been my greatest teacher.

Your STILL getting a thrill says a lot...


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I stopped keeping a journal

I stopped keeping a journal when I started writing professionally. I just can't stand the thought of *yet more writing* after a day of nothing but writing.

I think the writing I do is a kind of journal exercise. It's a representation of where my head is at a particular time in a particular place. I'm sure that when I'm old and I look back at all the stuff I've published, it'll read like history. (Which undoubtedly means some of it will seem pretty dumb.) That's how I like to look at it. 

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I never saw the point of journals, and had never kept one, but I'd always heard from people I respected, especially writers, that it was a good idea. I started one just this weekend, and though it only has two entries, it's been a very valuable experience. The act of putting thoughts into words, real words on the page, changes the very nature of them. Also, this is a momentous time in history, and a period of huge change for me personally, and when I'm at a different place in life, I want the ability to look back, and look inside. So much of who I was and what I was thinking about is lost to me, and it's a part of my identity I wish I could access again. 

-Max Sindell, Red Room