What is a writer? I know what an author is, and what a biographer, or novelist is. But a writer? One who writes? In books and movies it is such a declaration, such an assertion of identity. John Irving’s characters, especially Garp, in The World According to Garp, which I recently borrowed from Hannah, always have this sense of themselves as “writers.” This is possibly because that is how Irving felt; the emotion is too consistent across his novels (though, to be fair, there are many other things consistent across Irving novels, which is why I try to space them out). Even less Literary with a capital L characters in media do this. In the very beginning of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie, Carmen, who is describing each of her friends in turn, says that she is “Carmen, the writer.” Despite the fact that Carmen is rarely seen writing in either movie (or even in the later books), it is still for some reason important to establish this about her character in the opening lines of the film. She says it in this very distinct way, which reminds me of Irving’s characters and their inherent writerliness.

I do not know if I am a Writer. I enjoy writing, and have often been told that I am not terrible at it. I have always wanted to be a Writer. But I do not know how a person gets to be one. I have Writer friends, who say things like “I can’t go out tonight, I am taking some time to Write” which is something I have never said, and never anticipate saying. Perhaps one of the reasons I hesitate to identify myself as a Writer is that many of my Writer friends enthusiastically share their work which never turns out to be quite as brilliant as they’d hoped (caveat: this is referring to none of you, I am thinking of very specific people who do not go to this university) (Yes, that is horribly mean of me.) I worry that if I tried to be a Writer, it would turn out that I am not one at all, in any sense of the word. So I suppose I am a small-case writer, rather than an upper-case one.

Any thoughts on what makes one a Writer? Do any of you feel like Garp and Carmen? Are any of you just writers rather than Writers? Anyone think the word “writer” sounds weird now?


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