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Capital “W” Writer
Are you a writer or a Writer?
Capital “W” Writer
Whenever I fill my Leuchtturm19171 blue journal with poems, ruminations, and illustrations, I spend a couple of hours sifting through its pages, as if it were a Pensieve.2 This map of my conscience always surfaces those death valleys where I tend to linger.
In my latest journal, I pondered what it means to be a writer–writer with a capital “W.”
It’s an identity that can only be legitimately attained through a very specific path, so the story goes. Allende, Morrison, Baldwin, Garcia Marquez, Lorca, Murakami, Kundera, Gilbert. They are Writers. They are published, awarded, and beloved. Their books are cult classics, or massive hits, or dog-eared and always by a night table.
“Are you a Writer, Camilo?” was the line of inquiry in my journal pages. Or are you a writer, merely a cosplayer with a blog only friends, family, and a few others read, but with no real legitimacy or legacy?
It’s a form of gatekeeping inherited from those who, in defense of quality and professionalism, bestow this arbitrary criteria which accomplishes nothing other than making an already hostile atmosphere for creativity more toxic than the surface of Venus.
Reading my journal, I realized how silly it was to become ensnared in the status games of the writing craft. My writing is not legitimized by a man with a mustache, thick-rimmed glasses, and a brown blazer with elbow patches, atop a silver tower in Broadway, New York. And neither is yours.
We become Writers through a commitment to the process; pursuing mastery of our craft word by word, unraveling our ideas on the page earnestly, persisting despite indifference or ambivalence.
Our conviction to this mission needs to be as big as our dreams.
And that’s why pursuing a writing journey, or any artistic endeavor, can feel like lunacy. That’s why whenever I answer questions on what I write about, or how I will make money from writing, I feel like I’m zip lining through gale force winds; a temerous endeavor where you encounter resistance at every gust. You become a Writer when you decide to face that resistance because you wouldn’t have it any other way. You are willing to be misunderstood, perhaps ex-communicated from your social circle, in pursuit of an ambition that cannot be packaged as nicely as a job title on Linkedin.
Steven Pressfield isn’t a Writer because he became a published author 27 years after he started writing. He is a Writer because he wrote for 27 years and never gave up.
Seeking to get published, pursuing awards, etc., shouldn’t be pursued so that we call ourselves “Writers,” but rather because they are vehicles to give our work more exposure; they are part of our larger mission. The world doesn’t owe us an audience, but we owe to the world to not stay silent if we have something to say.
Awards are nice–I won’t pretend we can fast from validation. Recognition is part of the creative life force that sustains this manic endeavor. Yet, in the process of seeking awards for legitimacy, we miss all the other ways our work is legitimized. We miss the comments from our readers, the prideful tears from our parents, the moments where we read our own work and break into full moon smiles.
Kurt Vonnegut said that writers are unlikely to come from the English department because the weight of academia “teaches you good taste too early.” In the process, we forget to write from our soul, Vonnegut argues.
Instead, becoming a Writer means we become a student of life. Someone who looks at a tree and sees infinite textures in its foliages. Someone who overhears a first date next to him while writing this piece and immediately conjures a screenplay.3 Someone who feels heartbreak deeply, and in the midst of the pain says, “I need to write about this.”
I hope my writing is published in all the publications I admire. I hope millions read some of my sentences and smile. I hope one day I get a call from Stockholm at 5am, while my portrait of Garcia Marquez overlooks with an approving stare. But those do not earn me that capital letter. The capital letter is earned when you earnestly show up to the page and write. And you write because that is what you have to do. A compulsion so primal as breathing–even when you become so consumed by the process you forget to breathe. That’s when you write from the soul.
Do you write from the soul? Good. Then, I bestow this capital “W” unto you.
Quote of the Week
Special thanks to, , and for their help with this piece.
On your way out
I chose the absolute worst word to record my first audio voiceover.
Harry Potter nerd alert! A Pensieve was a magical object used to view and experience memories.
Screenplay title: Dude ask no questions to his date - A tragic comedy.