What it Takes to be a Real Writer

As part of my quest to branch out from poetry to short fiction, I subscribe to Daily Science Fiction. If you like to read short, speculative pieces, I highly recommend joining their mailing list.

However, despite close and careful study, I haven’t yet cracked DSF as a writer. So I usually read the authors’ notes after each piece, curious about those who have broken through. Recently, I saw a story by James S. Dorr, a name familiar to me because of his involvement with science fiction poetry.

My thought upon reading the man’s name was, “Oh, I’ve heard of him. He’s a real writer.”

And then I stopped. I sat there, dumbfounded. “Wow. Did I really just think that?”

Because the implication here is obvious: at a subconscious level, I don’t see myself as a writer. Not a real one, anyway.

How is this possible?

For eight years, I wrote government reports professionally. I penned a weekly green living newspaper column for a year. My poetry has been published internationally. My work can be found in anthologies. I’ve even won writing awards.

None of that matters to my subconscious, apparently. I still don’t qualify.

Is it because I write fan-fiction? Because I haven’t published a book (even though I’ve been included in a few)? Because I can’t pay the bills with my words? Because I’m desperately insecure and needy?

What is it going to take to convince myself that I am a real writer? That all of us who pick up a pen or tap on our iPads with the intent to communicate are real writers?

Real writers write. Period. That’s it. There are no other qualifications for entry.

Now, if I could just convince myself of that …

(Clearly, I need coffee. Real writers sit in coffee shops, right?)

P.S. BTW, my congrats and a hat tip to James S. Dorr. My subconscious says that you have arrived. 😉



I received the most wonderful email a few days ago. It was an acceptance letter for an unusual flash fiction short story that I wrote. I wanted to share this here because, as a writer, I think it’s so important that we relish our successes. It’s vital that we have something to sustain us during the long, painful drought of rejections. I love acceptance letters even more than seeing my pieces in print. It made my day. I even got paid!

For this piece, I saw the call for submissions, thought the concept would be a fun challenge, and whipped up something. I have no idea where I would have tried to market the piece had it not sold there. I wish I could share it with you now, but it’s in the publisher’s queue for November 2014.

Publication is a process. I can look back now and see the long road that I have travelled from emerging to published poet. Sometimes, I get frustrated that I can’t just jump from established poet directly to established short story writer. I may be in the middle of my journey as a poet, but I’m just unfolding the road map for writing fiction.

But today I celebrate my fiction writing success. I have found the road! 🙂

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