What Makes a ‘Real’ Writer?

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I’m not going to lie, I’ve gotten some negative feedback lately. And it hurts.

Here’s an anonymous email I got today:

“With all due respect (you seem like a nice person who wants to help others)–the proper usage is WHO –when referring to people/persons. People WHO want to…All over your website you use “that” instead –as so many (who have not studied the craft these days) who call themselves writers do.   Crap writing everywhere. Just an FYI.”

I don’t know if my platform is starting to reach the point where I’m noticed more or what. Regardless, why do people feel the urge (and then carry it out) to be mean? Why does the internet cultivate this “anonymous” position where people don’t care about hurting other people’s feelings?

None of this is new. And it probably won’t be the last time I get some “constructive criticism.” So, I’ll get up, shake it off and keep moving forward. In the meantime though, I’d like to talk about the top two things that I think makes someone a ‘real’ writer (which I feel like this person inferred that I was not).

1. You Write

I’ve run a couple of half marathons and one full in my 30 years of life thus far. I actually just registered for the Chicago half marathon (which is at the end of September) the other day. I bring this up because when I started running, I read a lot of health and fitness blogs.

There was the resounding question of at what point you could consider yourself a ‘runner.’ I.e. how much mileage or what speed qualified you as a ‘real’ runner? There were some snobs of course, but the majority answered, that if you ran, you were a runner!

I think it’s the same with writing.

“If you write, you’re a writer.”

You don’t have to have a degree in journalism or have  been an English major, to be considered a writer. You’re a writer because you write darn it!

2. You Get Paid to Write

If you’re good enough that people pay you to write for them or their company, you are certainly allowed to call yourself a professional writer. Guess what? If you get paid to write, it’s your PROFESSION! Hence, you’re a professional writer – weird, huh?

Ultimately, I consider myself a professional writer. I may make income in a diversified manner, but the majority of my monthly payroll comes from writing for clients.

Blogging Is Different than Journalism

There was an awesome article on Be a Freelance Blogger that outlined the history of blogging and where they thought it was going this year. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should.

I enjoy blogging here and writing blog posts for my clients. I write articles and to tell you the truth, there’s no longer a cut and dry difference between the two when they appear online. People may have different perceptions or expectations, but the lines (as the article/blog post mentions) are blurring.

What I do know is that blogging is typically the medium that works best for me. You’re expected to write in a more conversational tone, and the goal is to tell a story, rather than be 100% grammatically correct. It doesn’t mean your writing should be quick, hurried or lazy. Just that it should make for a more interesting read more than anything. If you don’t engage the reader and keep their attention, it doesn’t matter what category you’re trying to fit into – no one’s reading!

You Don’t Need to Be Perfect

Where does this whole idea that you have to be perfect in order to be considered a ‘real’ writer come from? You know what I think defines a ‘real’ or professional writer? Someone that is brave enough to put their work out there – and gets paid for it! You know what? I’m NOT perfect – and clients still hire me and pay me well for my writing! GASP!

The game has changed people, and the average person doesn’t care about your grammatically perfect writing. They care instead about an interesting story. Something that is captivating (at times controversial), well organized and holds their interest until the end. I’ve proven that I can write that way – therefore I’m a ‘real’ writer.

How about you? Do you write? It doesn’t matter if it’s for fun or to try to get paid – I think you’re a real writer. Let’s just shake it off together, shall we?

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30 thoughts on “What Makes a ‘Real’ Writer?”

  1. Just after I’d had my second novel published by Penguin, and having earned my living full-time as a journalist for Good Housekeeping and others for many years, I was talking to a neighbour at a party. He explained that he was doing some gardening for another neighbour. She was going to read and critique his unpublished novel in return. ‘You see,’ he explained to me and a third person, ‘Helen is a proper writer.’ (name changed to protect Helen!). Much as I liked and admired Helen, she had only had one book published by a very minor publishing house, and was certainly not earning a living by writing. His emphasis on the words ‘Helen’ and ‘proper’ made it clear that I was not – ah, well, his novel has never seen the light of day and I have now had 9 novels published plus 10 non-fiction books. I think he would still consider me ‘not a proper writer’!

    • Thanks for sharing your story Alexandra! Amazing how it still sticks with you after all of this time. Hopefully, you used it as motivation to propel you forward (rather than hold you back). I would say that you’re way more than a ‘proper writer’ at this point. Congrats on your NINETEEN published works – crazy AEWSOME!

  2. Hi Gina

    Reading this post made me think about something I read on Copyblogger a while back – basically if you’re getting haters then you’re on the right track! I think you’re right – your platform is probably reaching a point where more people are noticing, and obviously this particular one just couldn’t resist reaching out to you to spread a little hate.

    I had a similar experience when writing for Hubpages – something I did for fun before starting my own blog. I got awarded the Hub of the Day (apparently quite a big deal in the Hubpages community, although I was unaware at the time) – and one particular lady who also wrote for the site really was not happy about it. It resulted in spam comments criticizing my writing and then ended with a few private messages from her expressing her disgust at my article being picked above so many others out there. I’m all for receiving constructive criticism, but I understand your bafflement at people making the effort to reach out just to be mean. It really is quite sad.

    Just keep doing what you’re doing, rise above the hate and try not to think about the motives of these types of people. They simply don’t make sense!

    Oh, and if you fancy reading the Copyblogger article I was talking about it’s here: http://www.copyblogger.com/inuksuk/

    Keep it up 🙂

    • Thanks, Steph! I appreciate you sharing your own story (I knew I wasn’t alone;-) and the article. I plan on giving it a read:-) We’ll both keep persevering and rise above!!

  3. Just sit down and read “proper” newspapers like the Washington Post, NY Times etc. and you will find typo’s, incorrect grammar and sentence structures. Part of life. Read for content instead of getting hung up on one word is what I say. I know authors who have made millions of dollars on books that all had typo’s in them. Oh wait, that is every single book on the market! I don’t think I have ever read a book without catching at least one or two typo’s. Ces’t la vie!

  4. Very encouraging for those of us who aren’t considered “real” writers by non-writers. I am putting together some questions for you about your freelance course. I hope to start that soon.

  5. I have written many things for my personal enjoyment. I love living a short story as it forms on the page, and I have a few longer works as well. The catch? They all sit happily on my computer. I write for myself (and maybe my sanity! ha!). For now, I am content with that. I share with close friends and they enjoy them too. I would love to start writing as a second career – but it frightens me! Let’s be honest! What hobby writer doesn’t dream of seeing their name on the front cover of a freshly published first edition? Maybe someday.

  6. I just found your blog via Pinterest but got stuck at this article.
    Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about why some people take themselves so darn important that they feel entitled to judge others all the tme. Mind your own darn business. Why do they have to belittle others to feel better?
    Seriously, if we only considered writers with perfect grammar and style “proper writers” we would have very few of them.
    I don’t know how bad that problem is within the english native speaker community, but as a german native speaker I can tell you, that this is a serious issue over here as well.
    I was a linguistics major myself so personally I appreciate good grammar and style but I would never think of telling someone off or be so audacious as to say someone’s not a proper writer just because they express themselves differently.

    Also, language is not a static thing, frozen in its structure but is constantly changig and evolving which is one of the most awesome aspects of language imho 😉
    So, very often more than one structure or form can be correct at the same time. We have that a lot in the german language.

    Oh and one last thing…when I learned english in school we used to learn grammar reaaaally theoretically which can differ A LOT from how forms etc. are actually used.
    And we learned that “that” in fact can be used referring to a person, although “who” is more common. So “that” is not wrong, but might just not be the best version/style.
    But who cares? It’s your style! It’s what makes you you and obviously readers come back again and again to read what you have to say.
    So no one has the right to tell you off. Especially if they can’t prove they’s do a better job.
    But…haters will hate 😉 So, brush it off (I know how hard that can be!) and do your thing!

    Personally, this article got my attention right away and your blog is going on my bookmark-list and I surely read more of your articles 🙂

    All the best for the future!

    PS: Since we’re on the matter….sorry for any mistakes. Not a native speaker 😉

    • Adrienne,

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. All of your words are welcome here – good grammar or not;-) I feel like you really understood what I was trying to convey and really appreciate the support. Hope to see you around here more often!

  7. Haters are always going to hate. They make themselves feel superior by putting others down. Don’t worry about it. You’re a writer regardless of whether you use ‘who’ or ‘that’ or ‘their’ or there’. From reading your blog, I think you do a pretty good job.

    I’ve been writing for 20 years now and have only just started calling myself a writer. I still have lots to learn but as long as I’m writing, I’m a writer. One of these days I hope to be able to write full time.

  8. Hey Gina,

    What can I say? People like to be mean and didn´t have the guts to take responsibility for it.
    Someone who wants to give constructive criticism (the above was not) delivers the message in a different manner and tone.
    I didn´t write for years because of a journalist and colleague at a time “that” told me I can´t write! Then, one day, a friend told me to start a blog. I was beyond scared, but I did it. Guess what: today, just like you, I am paid to write!
    Do I know everything? Of course not. Do I have perfect grammar? Nope. But I am learning. In this life if you don´t learn, if you´re not on top of trends, well you´ve lost, no matter how good your grammar is or what school you finished.
    So, let´s enjoy our love for writing and our businesses. 😉

    • Cheers Corina! You know the best part about being a paid writer for the web? Meeting new friends like you:-) We’ve got this girlfriend! Can’t wait to see us a year from now!!

  9. My college professor told me that I need to stop saying I was a wanna be writer. He said that I write, therefore, I am a writer. End of story. In truth, you will never please everyone. All that truly matters is if you please yourself. Getting paid is great but pleasing yourself is the most important thing. Plus, I think you are great. I want to be you when I grow up in my writing.

    • That was sweet Susan, thanks! Totally agree, write first and foremost for your own pleasure and don’t worry about pleasing everyone – it’s IMPOSSIBLE!

  10. Hey Gina when they hate keep hustling. You are out there doing it!!!! When you get the chance you must read the 10x rule and follow Grant Cardone. This is something that he talks about a lot. He says when you have people noticing you then you are on the right track.

    For everyone out there that is hustling and not hating keep working. Gina keep going harder!!!

    I am still rooting for you!

  11. You hit the nail on the head with this one. Love the encouragement and message that you deliver. I really enjoy reading your articles and I plan on applying your recommendation. Thank you!

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