For real writers around the world — a little more grace towards newer writers
I will start this piece the way I usually end stories like it.
All writers are writers.
I usually include this sentence at the end of my lighthearted stories about writing and social media.
Many stories and concepts can be summed up with this statement and it seems to be a common thread among stories that give writing advice — the shaming of so-called, well, I don’t know what they call them… not-writers maybe?
Is there a word for writers who are not writers?
Oh, yes. Maybe it is up-and-coming writers.
Maybe, if I am a good enough writer, some of the real writers will come along and let me know what the correct term is for writers who are not writers.
Either way, we see an unnecessary number of stories all over the internet that claim to hold the claim to fame.
Besides the thousands of articles titled as such, many stories about writing tips are full of the same implication — not all writers are writers and if you want to be a real writer, do this.
This makes you a good writer and that makes you a good writer.
Do this, but don’t do that.
If you do the other, you are not a writer.
Be this but don’t be that.
Believing there is some elusive writer checklist that somehow qualifies someone as a writer is absurd.
Certain writing styles have certain requirements under certain circumstances. But generally speaking, all writers are writers.
Whether the most grandiose an editor or pub owner — or even the most prized leaders of platforms on which we publish — there is no other human being on this earth who can tell you what makes you a writer.
Only one person can decide if you are a writer and that is YOU.
A plea to real writers around the world
Don’t worry. I am not here to discourage high editorial standards.
I am highlighting that we don’t have to label some writers as real writers while labeling others as wannabes, to facilitate good writing.
Not only do we not have to, but we are killing people’s creativity and confidence with heavy hands and harsh judgments.
I have an excerpt from a piece I wrote before I was a writer that summarizes my message to real writers quite eloquently.
I have not edited it since I became a real writer. So, please, forgive my low-quality work. I would edit it, but then it would lose its power as a valuable artifact.
Actually, let’s make a deal. You allow the real writer in you to forgive the low editorial standards of my work, from before I was a real writer, and I will forgive all the primes that litter your work where quotations should be.
After all, you are likely just as naive about publishing and typography as the not-real-writers are about writing.
Here is the excerpt that I never actually wrote since I wasn’t a writer when I wrote it.
There is a difference between high standards and harsh judgments. You can want the best without looking for the worst. You can seek improvement without creating dissatisfaction. You can move upward without stepping on someone else to get there. You can ask for more without labeling what is as being not enough. Talk. Listen. Be open and honest. People will often rise to meet you, if given the opportunity.
Beating our children and students stopped being okay decades ago. But, figuratively speaking, the heavy hands of the writer world have never changed their ways.
Using shame and negative reinforcement to modify the behavior of others is an archaic practice, based on outdated theories that have long been disproven by modern psychology.
Sensitivity to another’s dignity is essential to protect a relationship as well as the other’s healthy self-image. Over time, a little shame can go a long way to harbor resentment that ultimately diminishes relationships. — Krystine I. Batcho Ph.D.
Although the unhelpful and harmful aspects of negative reinforcement are widely known today, the tone of some supposed leadership in the writing and publishing world is lagging.
Maybe some of you, the really-real writers, want to nurture this domination-culture. My hat is off to you. But I assure you such outdated and rigid methodology will soon be a thing of the past.
Even the literarily acclaimed William Strunk Jr., who originally wrote The Elements of Style, understood that you demonstrate merit in sacrificing rigidity for worthwhile style.
Many real writers know the book well and have read and listened to it a thousand times.
“It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation.”
― William Strunk Jr., The Elements Of Style
None can deny that when we quote the best and most acclaimed creators of our past, Grammarly has a fit with their sentences.
There are certainly real writers out there who are already picking up what I am putting down.
Some are cringing at my words. Some have only read this far because of that thing in humans that causes us to desire being disturbed. I ask you to reason with me.
Again, I am not here to discourage high editorial standards.
I am simply asking if we can find it in our hearts to speak of and to new writers with a little more grace.
Many parents, whose parents paddled them, did not paddle their children. It was the only way things could change. The idea that something is better because it is the way it has always been or the way it was for you is nonsensical.
Beating newer writers with our high standards and harsh judgments makes no more sense than beating our children with a piece of wood. Unless, of course, you wish to discourage rather than encourage.
I have many real writer friends who know this, but if you are a real writer who does not know me, I love you no matter how heavy or gentle your editorial hand is.
I am not blaming anyone for this unbridled culture of domination left from years gone past. I am simply inviting you to consider that the time for rigid standards on creativity has long passed.
It’s 2021 and the world is different. Our rigid standards and harsh tones are not helping — they are just making people feel bad.
Written by Holly Kellums
Originally published on Medium.com
Featured image by Green Chameleon on Unsplash