I took a writing workshop from author Nora Gallagher this weekend, and she pointed out that people who aren’t writers ought not to teach writing. Her tongue-in-cheek comment made me shudder. Is that where I’m headed?

After three years of blogging, a handful of published pieces, and a shiny new be-ribboned diploma from Hopkins, I am only just beginning to accept the moniker “writer,” and I think it’s because people are asking me to teach writing workshops. So I must be a writer, right?

As Nora painfully reminded me, it ain’t necessarily so. {For you non-writers, this is a “literary allusion,” a technique whereby an author references something like an idea or an artistic work, and it’s up to the reader to make the “connection.” In case your brain synapses are too youthful to make that connection: “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is a song from George and Ira’s 1935 opera Porgy and Bess.}

The technique I employed immediately after employing the “literary allusion” is referred to as “literary hubris,” whereby an author uses lots of random “quotation marks” and tosses around words like “whereby” and draws distinctions between writers and non-writers, and calls famous authors by their first names. Nonchalant laughter: “I’d like to get Sylvia’s take on that.” If you attend cocktail parties with “Writers” who “Network,” you may be familiar with this literary device. (Note: never ask who Sylvia might be. It’s the poet, Plath.)

How To Avoid Becoming a Poseur

How I hate the idea of being a poseur, someone who lives a writer’s life but feels like a fake. I’m not so much worried about what others think, as I am about coming to disrespect myself. What must I do to escape this fate? Should I decline teaching opportunities in order to avoid becoming Nora’s dreaded non-writing writing teacher?

No! I lead workshops because I like leading workshops. I take writing classes because I like writing classes. I read books about writing because I like books about writing. I even embarrass myself by reading at open mic poetry nights because I like reading my poetry, unsophisticated as it may be.

The thing I’m missing is the writing. I haven’t been writing. I can barely get a blog post together.

I should write. Every day. Blogging counts, but it’s more like warming up for the “real” thing — I know this sentiment probably annoys some bloggers. Sorry. But I see true writing as a marathon. Blogging is the warming up, the keeping in shape. The long race takes discipline and endurance and perseverance and strategy and real tough stuff like structure and pacing and cohesive narrative arcs. And something worth saying.

Because I’m not sure I can pull all that off, I don’t start. Well, not true. I start quite frequently. I just don’t keep going. I skip the discipline and perseverance part.

But somehow, I still think I’m a writer.

That’s new. That’s good. That’s a start. Now I just need to write.

Me, posing as a writer doing a book signing. It's actually an anthology, which means it's really someone else's book; I'm just in it.

Me, posing as a writer doing a book signing. It’s actually an anthology, which means it’s really someone else’s book; I just have an essay in it.

Advertisements