12 September 2012

Are You a "Real" Writer? Test Yourself. I Dare You.

by Carrie Bailey

You are not the president. You're not president, first lady or even a presidential candidate. We both know the truth of this and you're not about to deny it. Being a president requires a nation's approval and being a presidential candidate requires support from a political party.

And so what if I told you I was the presidential nominee for the People Who Actually Enjoyed Doing Jumping Jacks As Children party? Would you be impressed? Why is being an author different? In a new era of self-publishing, we can go online, call ourselves authors, make up a press, sign our dog's on as our agent. There's no clear division between the "real" authors, the writers and the people who just learned how to type. We know it cheapens our labor to be associated with bad writers, but we can't easily distinguish for ourselves who is who, so why should it be any easier for anyone else. If you have the money, you can even make yourself appear popular, buy yourself some flattering book reviews... If celebrities don't need a talent or even an occupation anymore, do writers really need to prove themselves either? Sigh, it's so hard for us honest, hardworking types.

You're at a dinner party and meet a gas pump attendant,"Yeah, I'm a writer," you say. He snickers and walks off thinking you live with your parents and put your Starbuck's coffees on a credit card they pay. Sure, he stank and probably had fleas, but... 

And all because, you're not acting the part and flaunting your cash. You can't just make a decent income or supplement your current one. To be "real" in the world of writing, you need a yacht.

There's only one solution to this problem that we've all got pursuing a career as a writer: we must agree on a point-based system and have clearly defined "levels" to designate our real status. I know, it makes it hard to be less honest and relative about our success or failure, but let's get to the point. It's hard to judge each other and can you blame society if they won't recognize your success when even you don't know where you stand? We've got to stop patting ourselves on the back for writing two thousand words in one afternoon. We can't gloat about a single publication. We need perspective. 

I'll even open up an organization and certify everyone's progress if anyone wants to send me the $29.99 application fee. 

Level 2 - Owning a typewriter was like blogging then.
LEVEL ZERO - Writer - Person who owns a pen, pencil or anything he or she and create a permanent record of his or her own thoughts or speech. Most early hominids actually qualify as do babies when they can finally make those chubby little fingers grip something. Don't worry, this isn't you.

LEVEL ONE - Legendary Author Extraordinaire - You've decided to write a book or maybe a series. This has got to be the greatest idea you've ever had! What are you going to do with all the money and will it fit on your new yacht? No, that's silly, first you've just got to write something, but you were so good at English in school. How hard can it be?

LEVEL TWO - Aspiring Writer - You're blogging. You put your name in a word search and there it is. You're at conferences. You're names in print...on your name tag. You count the number of hits your webpages are getting and more than half of them aren't you! You've done nanowrimo and you've learned some jargon. And you've been paid for writing words. It was the biggest barrier of them all. They were just words, but someone thought yours were special enough to acquire in exchange for cash! Thanks Mom.

LEVEL THREE - Writer (again) - This is the exact point after you've plunged into the depths of social media with your new career aspirations only to discover there's no water in the pool-just broke authors and they're suffocating each other. You know 95% of people who write don't make a living at it. You know most published authors never quit their day jobs, but you're at level three because you're still doing it.

LEVEL FOUR - [title of your actual job] - No, you haven't given up, but it's so depressing. Pass the whiskey. Even if you've had to claim your earnings on a tax return, your writing has been compromised. You wrote what other people wanted to read and it made you feel icky. Talk about it or don't talk about it. Now, you know some successful career authors, but you also know you've got a lot of work to do. Maybe it's time to ask for some help? Write a business plan? Pay for advertising? It's anybody's guess or is it?

LEVEL FIVE - Author - You've arrived, but honestly you didn't realize it, because you've just started to make enough money to quit your day job from the profit on your novels (and the writing jobs you'd rather not talk about). You're an author with an income. I don't have the slightest clue who you are, but there's a lot of people who do or they will when they finally open your book even if it is at the bottom of the bag in the back of their car for the last six months. Sure, maybe they confused your name for someone elses when they got overzealous the day after getting their new Kindle, but you're on your way.

LEVEL SIX - %@#$@ - Behind your back that's what all of your jealous friends and family are calling you. The bitterness is unending. Success doesn't feel as good as you thought it would, but you've weathered some ups and downs. Sure it was dried noodles with butter or something that tasted like it for a little while again, but you're a businessperson and you plan for these things. Wouldn't it be nice if people quit contributing your hard work to this random gift of talent or just plain dumb @#$#% luck?

LEVEL SEVEN - Author/Speaker/Owner/CEO of "your name+books" - We don't know you are and we haven't read your books, but we know someone who knows that you're someone. We also know that you're enough of a someone that you're associated with brands that we recognize. And we know that we like your style...it smells like freshly printed greenbacks.

LEVEL EIGHT - Good Author - That's right. You stand out, because your writing has changed people's lives. We will never forget. This is the stage we all hope to reach. We want to be with you right now. All of us. No, we just want to be you. We wish we had thought of the things you wrote. You spoke to us on a level we didn't know we had. It doesn't matter really, just can you sign this? Mind if I take a picture with you to show the grand kids someday?

LEVEL NINE - [insert your given name here] - The hard part about being a celebrity is that people lose sight of how normal you really are. They try to take photos of you on your yacht or figure out which of your houses you're spending your holiday in and then go there. You just don't feel like writing much right now either, but why bother if you don't want to? You're set. Maybe you'll fly somewhere you haven't been this weekend and adopt a few orphans of that one war in the country with less water than they need or maybe start acting. But, whatever you do you're not watching one of the movies your book was made into again - at least not by the one by the first director. 

LEVEL TEN - Legend - You've been knighted, you make more than the Queen. I can walk into every house on my street and even the deaf and blind people know your name. They can recognize you by your photograph, list five of your books, pull them off their shelves and point out their favorite parts within a minute of flipping about. Each of them can describe your humble beginnings and the story brings tears to their eyes every time. You squeeze your pen ever so slightly and gold bars fall out.

Again, for level certification, please enclose your most recent tax returns, book reviews, website addresses, celebrity page gossip photos, testimony from a 10,000 person petition to have a postal stamp with your likeness created during your lifetime and $29.99 to Peevish Penman, c/o Carrie Bailey, on her yacht, somewhere in the dreary Wellington harbor, New Zealand. Ha! See, you don't know if I have yacht do you?


  1. Carrie - as a I said on twitter, I loved this post. I'm also nominating you for an award... Participate if you wish, but I want more people to know about you. "The Versatile Blogger" award. I think you're neato-keen. :)

    1. Oh, thanks Molly. I've gotten that one before, but it's one of my favorites! I'm going to be sending an email pretty soon ;).

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