Can’t Anyone be a Writer?

One of the great questions (alright, so maybe it’s one of the mediocre questions, but it’s important to me, alright?) writers often face from a less than enthused public is such, generally delivered in a somewhat sarcastic tone: “What does it take to be a writer?”

Of course, the fact that this usually comes after someone in the room has already delivered the very much conversational bombing inquiry of: “Can’t anyone be a writer?” doesn’t make matters much better. To that, of course, the answer is at once both a begrudging yes, and still a resounding no. Anyone can write. Not everyone can take on the title of writer. Even less the title of author, but then, that’s a whole other issue that a great many blogs spend a great deal of time getting flamed about already, so let’s not get into that quite yet shall we?

So what does it take to be a writer, then? After all, every school thrusts an English class at you at some point, and if you have to write creatively for them, doesn’t that make you a writer? No, class, but thank you for asking. I took years and years of mathematics, and that didn’t make me a mathematician, so I’m sad to say that an English class or two isn’t enough to hand out the coveted (Yes, flattery, dang you—give me something) heavy weight title.

The fact is, you’re probably not going to pick up the skill that is writing successfully from school. If you’re a writer, the passion is already there—school and the works offered therein merely provide you with further evidence for said love, and a means to hone it. That said, there are really only three main ways to actually perfect the skill, and begin to call yourself a writer:

  1. Write, damn you. Without practice, your writing will be as flaccid as…an airless balloon. What did you think I was going to say?
  2. Getting it out there. I don’t mean hitting the publishers right off the bat, kiddo—chances are, especially these days, most of them wouldn’t give you what you need anyways, and that’s a critique. Show your work to friends, to teachers, hell, even hire yourself some beta readers or find some eager reviewers. Hunt down a writers group. But get insight—good or bad, it’s the only way you can get opinions to advance your work beyond the confines of your own noodle.
  3. Study. What, you thought this was the path of the indolent? A good writer reads, be it fellow writers of his genre or theories of the same. Immerse yourself in language, and skill, and the lessons they teach will gradually rub off on you. Knock heads with a teacher or fellow writers you admire, and see what they can help you learn. Grow, or stagnate, friends.

Most major writers don’t have a Masters in English; hell, there’s plenty of writers out there without even an English degree in the first place. It doesn’t mean it’s not a path for you, but that’s the thing—it’s only a path for those that know that very specific brand of learning will work. The facts that hold true, no matter the soul, though, are the above.

No man is an island. Don’t make it so. And see what works for you within those boundaries—every person learns and grows differently.


World Poetry, Part Four

For day four’s favorite poetry selection, I give you British poet Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress:”

Andrew Marvell, care of Wikimedia Commons.

Had we but world enough, and time,

This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

~Andrew Marvell

From Russia with Love

The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all.
~Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Even so, one step from my grave, I believe that cruelty, spite, The powers of darkness will in time, Be crushed by the spirit of light.
~Boris Pasternak

Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.
~Leo Tolstoy

For, after all, you do grow up, you do outgrow your ideals, which turn to dust and ashes, which are shattered into fragments; and if you have no other life, you just have to build one up out of these fragments. And all the time your soul is craving and longing for something else. And in vain does the dreamer rummage about in his old dreams, raking them over as though they were a heap of cinders, looking in these cinders for some spark, however tiny, to fan it into a flame so as to warm his chilled blood by it and revive in it all that he held so dear before, all that touched his heart, that made his blood course through his veins, that drew tears from his eyes, and that so splendidly deceived him!
~ Fyodor Dostoevsky, White Nights


“Give expression to the noble desires that lie in your heart.”

~Gordon B. Hinckley

Welcome, friends, to the Waking Den–a blog devoted to the hosting, review, and discussion of my myriad works. Who am I? My name is Chris, and I am a Senior Journalism Major, Philosophy minor (former English major) at Michigan State University. I have written hundreds of poems, dozens of short stories, and a novel, and am presently working on the first book in a planned trilogy. I am a writer, a reader, and an avid photographer as well. If I could draw, or paint, or do any of the many wonderful skills arrayed along that strata of creativity as well, I would, but this is what I do, and I hope that you enjoy what I have to offer.

As opposed to my other site, “The Shut-in,” which is dedicated to the reviewing of others’ creativity, I have made this site as an expression of my own. I think we all need an outlet, to grow and to flourish in the world, and I hope to make this one of mine.

What you will find here is the full range of the literary world. It is a house of my own fancy. One day I may post a poem, another a short story (or parts thereof), some may simply see extended thoughts of mine, even an essay or two, if the mood so strikes. Other days may herald a glimpse of others’ novels or stories, and an expression of my thoughts on them.

All content on this site is mine, tried and true, and I ask that you not re-use anything without permission from me, and appropriate credit given. That said, I hope to make this site as open as possible to any interested–and I encourage your discussion, your insight, and your commentary.

Vincit qui se vincit.