I have run into a lot of people who, when asked about it, turn out to be self-proclaimed "aspiring writers". It is something that always prompts me to arch an eyebrow and utter an amused, “Oh?”. For me, this species is baffling in its existence, even though I understand where they might be coming from.
I'm not going to claim that I'm right in my own assumptions and then go on a rant about the aspirant defenders, as I think that is not constructive and is plain presumptuous, but I'm going to explain my views on this matter so that, perhaps, some of you who consider yourselves “aspiring writers” can get the aspiring part out of the title.
You'd be amazed at what can be accomplished when you stop thinking of yourself like a project of, and start believing you are the real thing.
The basis to this whole theory lies in a simple question:
What makes a writer?
I'm not asking whether a writer is made over time and practice or born with a special talent, I'm just asking about the defining factor that, ultimately, makes a writer be a writer.
Writers are creatures of words, but not every babbling fellow can be considered a writer.
Writers are also full of imagination, prone to wild ideas and they tend to see the creative potential on all the little things. However, not every guy who goes around building castles of sand up in the clouds can be considered a writer, no matter how fantastic he is making things up.
Writers can create characters and develop them to the point where they become almost as real as breathing, flesh-and-blood people both in the writer's own mind and in their reader's on. This doesn't mean that people claiming to have an imaginary friend can be considered writers.
The tricky part is.... Writers write.
Surprised? I was, when I had this little epiphany a few years ago, and I still am amazed by the number of people who seem to overlook such an elemental fact.
A writer is not supposed to sit down in the couch and bemoan the lack of a publisher (though, of course, they are allowed to have their writer rants – which is another topic altogether).
They are not supposed tell everyone who wants to listen, and even a few folks who don't, how they would definitely win this or that prize if only they bothered to participate... which they won't do because everyone knows the jury is partial.
Waiting for inspiration to hit the fan does not work, either - the only way to work through a writer's block is by writing, even if it is as painful a process as pulling out one's own teeth. Perhaps they'll only produce three lines in three hours, and they'll be so awful they'll have to delete them the next day and re-do everything.... But they'll produce, and eventually the three lines will be three paragraphs and then three pages and then they'll be back in shape.
Trust me on that previous point, if you won't share the rest of my views: I'm talking from experience when I say that sitting back and waiting will take you nowhere. Or actually, it will take you farther away from your writing so that it becomes increasingly more difficult to pick the metaphorical pen back up. But I digress:
What I am trying to say is that a person who affirms that they are an aspiring writer, but who doesn't write, is simply a person who might enjoy reading, might enjoy making up stories, might like the idea of being a writer... but who isn't.
So, now, be honest: Are you a writer?
You might be one, might even agree on the comments made above, and still present a very solid argument:
'I don't have a means to publish. But one day my books will make it to the libraries, and when my story finally reaches the people, I'll be a writer. That is why, right now, I'm an aspiring one.”
Solid argument, yes, but I'll say: No, you won't be. You are.
This is where we undertake the delicate task of making a distinction between writers and authors. Being a writer has absolutely nothing to do with being published. Having many readers, positive feedback, a bookshelf all for you in your local bookstore... it would be amazing, but it is not compulsory.
However, if that is your goal, you should consider moving on to the next step: becoming an author.
Where is the difference? A writer writes, as previously stated. An author plans, organizes, drafts, writes, proofreads, edits, proofreads again. An author crafts. It takes a lot of time, a lot of work, and I feel confident saying that a few ranting, crying, despairing sessions are peppered throughout the process.
My humble opinion? It is worth it.
But that pile of work might still be insufficient when it comes to finding an agent, a publishing house. It might not be nearly enough to send you into a world signing tour. Does that mean, then, that you are an aspiring author?
And why should you be? Nowadays, this digital era is giving us the best chances. There are a hundred possible ways for you to proceed: you could self-publish. You could find sites that caters to your genre and make your work available to the public – most such sites have a way to protect your contents even if you distribute them freely. Craft your stories, finish them, and listen to what people say: What did they like? Why? What part where you most comfortable writing and turned out best?
Perhaps you are not making money, but you are still an author. And by listening and incorporating the constructive criticism you will, hopefully, receive, you will learn to do better in your next work. This constructive criticism, be it in the form of comments or reviews, is priceless and you should be grateful for every bit, even if you don't like to be told that something doesn't work in your story.
Improve. You have the chance to do so.
If you do, perhaps a big publisher will want to sign you up. Or perhaps you will find that you have enough followers to make self-publishing a viable option. That is more editorial-geared and belongs to another post, though: the important thing here is...
By the end of every work, you'll have created something. Something that is yours. It is a full text, well cared for, well thought out, well crafted. And I'm sure that you'll have learnt a lot of things while you prepared it, even if in the end it was not a best-seller. The next project will be better, and now you have your very own finished work in your hands .
If you have achieved this, congratulations! I genuinely believe you can scratch the “aspiring” part out of your title. You deserve it.