Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rainer Maria Rilke and Becoming a "Real" Writer

"Don’t ask me about being a writer. If when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer." -- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I first heard that quote in the movie Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Kind of a random place to hear such a fantastic quote, but there it is. And yes, I know that movie wasn't all that great but I don't care. I like it anyway. This post isn't about my enjoyment of oddball early '90s films starring Whoopi Goldberg though; rather, it's about what that particular quote means to me and how it's influenced my writing.

I've written a lot over the years: short stories, drawer novels, news articles, blog posts, research papers, academic articles, and the list goes on and on. I try to write every day now, whether it's a post on Free the Princess, a random freelance article I had an idea for, a short story, or a guest post for a friend's blog. I put words to paper (words to screen, what have you) at least a little bit every day. Sometimes it's only 5 minutes, but that's 5 minutes more than I wrote before.

I'm pretty much constantly thinking about writing in some form or another. It's not always the novel I should be writing, or my non-fiction Steampunk work, or any one particular thing, but I am always thinking about it. You might imagine then that this gets a tad confusing in my messed up little head. Not really, truth be told. I've done this juggling act long enough that keeping the proverbial plates spinning is actually pretty darn easy.

The full crux of Rilke's quote didn't hit me until a few years ago. If you're a writer, you should write. It doesn't matter what it is, it doesn't matter who sees it, and it sure as heck doesn't matter if it's good or bad. Just write. That's what I think Rilke's main point was -- no one can tell you when you've become a "real" writer because there's no such thing as a "real" writer.

Am I a real writer because I write as much as I can wherever I have the opportunity to do so? I think I am. Do I think about writing from the first moment I wake up? More or less -- my typical first thought is actually "oh crap it's morning already?" -- my second thought is definitely about what writing I'm going to do that day though. If we go with Rilke's quote as the determinant for what makes a "real" writer, then I'd say I qualify.

What about you? Is your first thought of the day about writing?


Michelle D. Argyle said...

This is an awesome, awesome post! Thank you for sharing this, and I LOVE that quote. I remember that in the movie even though I haven't seen it for years. The funny thing is that every morning the first thing I do is think about whatever I'm working on - a blog post, a novel, a short story, etc. And you're right, there is no such thing as a "real" writer. It certainly doesn't matter how you share work or with whom. Writing is writing. :)

Elisabeth Black said...

I love Rilke. No, my first thought of the day isn't about writing. I confess... it's about coffee.

Patty Blount said...

Great post! Unlike Beth, I don't like coffee... my first thought of the day is typically, "Oh, crap... what was that great dream?"

Typically, I dream about my characters. (It gets hairy when they cross stories.)

He who screams loudest is usually what I write that day. Right now, Dan is very pissed off at me for losing his big love scene. I am rewriting it.

I have this discussion with my husband, who finds humor in telling me I'm not a real writer because I haven't been paid. I dismiss that and agree with Michelle, 'writing is writing'.

I was up until nearly 1 AM this morning rewriting Dan's and Julie's lost love scene and then, after a dream-filled night, woke up this morning with new ideas and direction for it. (It'll be better than the parts I lost.)

I smirk at my husband and ask him, "When was the last time you had delicious dreams about fixing an airplane?" (He's an airline mechanic.)

Shuts him right up.

Nate Wilson said...

No, of course my first thought of the day isn't about writing. Most often, it's: "Damn alarm clock. I don't want to go to work."

Then I think about writing.

L. T. Host said...

No, the first thought of my day isn't about writing. But after that, it's definitely one of the five things that I think about the most.