By JPC Allen
There is a difference between writers and people who write. One of my favorite writers, Patrick F. McManus, brought this home to me in his humorous essay, “People Who Hunt”, from the book Kerplunk!
Mr. McManus writes that hunters and people who hunt are two different species. People who hunt love the sport, but they have other interests with no connection to hunting. A hunter, on the other hand, constructs his whole life around hunting. Mr. McManus describes a bank president who uses his job as a means to pay for his hunting. Being a hunter is his identity.
When I read this, I marveled at how anyone could be so single-minded. I loved writing, but I had many other interests. I liked old movies, especially film noir. I enjoyed being outdoors, hiking and exploring. I loved kids, so I was active in the children ministries at my church and led reading groups at my kids’ school. I read history, baked, and used to ride horses. I’d taken scuba and fencing lessons. If I wasn’t well-rounded, I thought I was at least oval-shaped.
Then, driving down a lonely country road one day, I had a startling revelation. (That can happen if you drive down enough lonely country roads.) I wasn’t a person who writes. I was a writer. Everything I did I looked on as potential sources of writing inspiration.
When I watch old movies, I study the plotting and performances, seeing what I can learn from them. When I am outdoors, I look at the scenery as possible settings. The kids I work with teach me about behavior and guide me when building characters. Riding horses gave me an appreciation for them and the people who work with them and led to the creation of a whole family of characters who make their living with horses. I use history as the source of plots, like all the drama that existed within Queen Victoria’s family.
I learned this fact all over again when I recently received negative feedback from an agent. She said my YA novel had a problem with “show, don’t tell.” I was devastated. I had worked so hard on my submission. In the weeks that followed, I questioned everything I knew about writing, wondering if I couldn’t grasp the concept of “show, don’t tell”. Maybe I wasn’t talented enough to master it. Perhaps I was a person who writes. Writing would be just another one of my hobbies, like baking.
The ridiculous thing was, while all these doubts overwhelmed me, I was still observing the world as a writer. I couldn’t help myself. I was people-watching for character development, studying sunsets for settings, and watching movies with ideas about how I would change the plot if it were mine. God made me a writer. Whether I got published didn’t change that fact.
After getting some advice at a second conference, I read two books on “show, don’t tell” and rewrote my novel. It’s the toughest writing assignment I ever had. And I loved it. Maybe that’s another sign that I really am a writer.Am I Really A Writer? Thoughts from JPC Allen #ACFWBlogs #writing Click To Tweet
JPC Allen wrote her first story in second grade when she penned a homage to Scooby Doo. She hopes her YA novel The Truth and Other Strangers, a Genesis semi-finalist, will be the first in series set in contemporary West Virginia. Because she loves introducing kids to the adventure of writing, she conducts workshops for tweens and teens. Find her writing tips and inspiration for beginning writers at JPCAllenWrites.com and facebook.com/JPCAllenWrites.
Thank you for your post. Excellent insights! By the way, I, too, am a writer! 🙂
Great encouragement. Doubts in writing can overwhelm me, but I will continue on with a positive outlook knowing God made me a writer. 🙂
Thanks so much! I’m glad you found the post helpful. If you are a writer, you can endure even the most boring or trying moments in life, thinking, “Maybe I can use this in a story.”