by Deren Hansen
so with writers. (Or literary agents.) Anyone can hang out the
proverbial shingle and declare, "I am a writer." Perversely, there are
few milestones that unambiguously identify one as a writer: even hitting
the New York Times Bestsellers List only proves that you have written.
I'm beginning to believe there are no writers.
you've been patient to this point, you might now object that there are
obviously a great many writers. Millions of books are published each
year. Millions of people are employed in jobs whose practical output is
words on paper (or screens). Beyond that, nearly every citizen of the
literate world strings at least a few words into sentences each day.
true. And yet most of this vast army of writers write in the service of
some other purpose. Just as nearly every scientist uses mathematics to
do their work but they don't call themselves mathematicians, the
majority of people who write don't call themselves, "writers."
So what does it mean to be a writer?
the world of commercial publishing, the only writers who matter are the
ones who have enough of a following that every book they release is a
In the world of the literati,
the only writers who matter are the ones (usually dead) who have
produced the masterworks that they endlessly discuss.
It's pretty slim pickings if you're looking for a role model.
Which is precisely the point.
are like curry: it's an approach to preparing the food, not a
particular dish. There is no single approved model of success or failure
as a writer. Rather, like an entrepreneur, there's a world of
opportunity and any number of creative ways to take advantage of those
Unlike other professions, where the pathway to achievement is clearly marked, writers have a blank page.