What It Means to Be a Writer

A reader asks: what’s it like to be a writer? I’d never asked that question. I never even thought about it. It’s like being asked: what’s it like to be a man?

As reported earlier in this blog, I knew by age six that I was born to write. In my youth, I tried various other vocations, but I ended up going back to writing. I couldn’t earn a living at writing, so I became a spy. Spydom was a natural occupation because I was a linguist, eventually in seven different languages. I studied languages other than English because they intrigued me and I enjoyed them. Speaking other languages over time greatly enhanced my ability to write. Through learning how foreign speakers expressed themselves, I discovered the fine gradations of meaning possible through careful word choice, insinuation, and context.

I’m reasonably certain that being a writer has different meaning for different people. I know that my method is unlike that of others, and that other writers differ from one another. So what I tell you about myself may not apply to anyone else.

I write every day. Some days it may not look like writing to an objective observer. It doesn’t always involve typing at a keyboard or working with pen and paper. Sometimes I sit in the easy chair I use for reading and think. I let my mind wander as I listen to my inner voice. Sometimes I review a printed manuscript of my work. Other times I correct text on the computer screen. Still other times I sit on my deck and daydream.

All of that leads to the hard work of putting pen to paper, or, in my case, fingers to the keyboard. Most of my writing time is spent before the computer screen typing. When I’m on a tear, I can spend as much as fourteen hours in one day pounding away. More commonly, I’m at the keyboard in the morning or the afternoon but not both. I rarely write in the evening when I’m tired and need to escape from work.

Unlike most other writers I know, I don’t work from an outline. I let my muse (really my subconscious) dictate the story to me. Once I have a draft, I put it away to cool, then start the revision process. I go through as many as ten drafts of a short story or a novel before I’m content that I can’t improve it further.

More tomorrow.

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