Saturday, November 24, 2012

What is a Writer?

One of the most common questions asked of a young child is "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The answer is often heard with amusement as kids wish to be heroes and superstars, teachers and parents, athletes and artists, or even birds and trees. Yes, trees, just ask my daughter; it was her life dream at age two!

Some people seem to know exactly what they want to be from the time they are very young; others seem to find their path somewhere along the way; while others yet seemingly stumble into a profession, more by knowing what they don't want to be rather than what they do. I was and am a stumbler, still not certain of what I'd like to be when I grow up. (I know, I'm running out of time, you needn't remind me!).

I've had many dreams over the years of things I would have enjoyed doing and I suppose there is still enough time to pursue some. But the truth is I'm not willing to make the sacrifice necessary to achieve many of them. I don't relish going back to school to become a dolphin trainer, for instance, though wouldn't it be fun?

Writing is one of the things I stumbled into. I never imagined being a writer, and in many ways, I still don't consider myself to be one, at least not a "real" writer. In my world view, a real writer has had their work published in a magazine or has had their name printed on the spine of a book. When visiting the library, I sometimes wistfully run my hand along the shelves, taking in the names of all those authors and dreaming of being such a gifted storyteller.

I started writing early in my 'career' when I worked for a big accounting firm in New York. I researched companies and industries, summarized the information and wrote reports, bringing to the forefront the most  relevant findings I had uncovered to help fuel the business decisions of the firm's clients. Over the years, I've continued to write for business purposes, and while I am paid to do so, I do not consider myself a real writer. Why exactly?

I think the answer is two-fold. Firstly, my business writing is not published nor written for the sole purpose of the enjoyment of the reader, though I hope I don't bore too terribly. Secondly, and more importantly,  it's not what I would consider authentic - I don't write stories that are my own, I merely regurgitate the in-depth knowledge of others into more succinct bits.

But could I be a real writer? Whenever I read a novel or enjoy a well-scripted movie or play, my thoughts drift and I wonder if I have it within me to create something unique and worthwhile.

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