I have a confession to make. I should have come to know this about myself long ago, as I stood in class after class, and writing group after writing group saying things like, “All writing counts” and “I’m just glad when people read.” I should have realized how hypocritical I was being because:
I can be a real writing snob.
As I was reading my friend Shawn Smucker’s beautiful, honest post about his rather insular home community, it occurred to me that I, too, create “insiders” and “outsiders” when I think and talk about writing. The “insiders” are those people who write every day, who see writing as something that they must do, who see writing as something like hard work, not inspiration. “Outsiders” are those people who write as a hobby or a pastime, who look for the things that inspire them in the world, who “don’t take writing seriously.” Like I do . . . yep, there it is, that judgment based on what I have decided is the “right” way to be a writer. I need to apologize to all of you who I have judged quietly. I am sorry.
Don’t mistake me. I do think writing is hard work. I do think our writing improves when we write regularly and don’t wait for the muse to inspire us. But I need to let go of the definition of a writer as a person who believes these things as I do.
I suspect, if we were all honest with ourselves, we’d find other ways to create that “insider” and “outsider” status in terms of writing. Whether we form these categories based on what people read – YA lit isn’t serious; only books from the traditional cannon are worth reading; “genre fiction” doesn’t count – or whether we use publishing to set those limits – people who self-publish aren’t really published; if you only have an e-book, you can’t really say you’re an author – I suspect we all create a circle of what we think is “real writing and reading” and what we think isn’t. I’m not sure this is a good thing.
Please know, I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t see differences between the kinds of things we write and read or that we shouldn’t weigh the benefits of e-publishing vs paper publishing. There are differences, and those differences are – to be a bit cliche – beautiful.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we stopped creating hierarchies of “better” or “worse” and honored the hard, gorgeous work we all do as writers? Otherwise, it seems like we’re just turning against ourselves in a world that does not, sadly, value what any of us do very deeply.
What do you think? Do we create insider/outsider cliques in our community? Do the benefit us or harm us?