Shop talk

When can you call yourself a writer? When can you call yourself a professional writer? And when can you call yourself a good writer? John Scalzi, who certainly qualifies as all three, addresses these questions on his blog, and if you are interested in any of them, reading Scalzi’s thoughts will be worth your time.

Personally, I think the answer to the first question is: When you have completed something. When I was running the bookstore, I welcomed writing groups to hold their meetings in either the front or the back room. Time and again I would hear somebody reading aloud a paragraph, or a sentence, or every once in a while a chapter, but never a finished work. And that’s what separates the writers from the dabblers. Though I was a salary-drawing journalist a year after leaving college, I did not account myself a true writer until a decade later, when I finished my first novel. Like most first novels, it was unpublishable, but I had known the incomparable thrill of willing something into existence that only I could bring into being. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and a discernible narrative arc. It wasn’t very good, but it was completed. And that was enough.

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