Have you crossed the line?

Last week we had a family gathering where relatives who hadn’t seen each other in years shared a meal. Glory stories were told and there was probably a grain of truth in most of them. No constraints like correct grammar or good structure were imposed on the tall tales.

Word count: 477           Reading time: approx 2 minutes

At the writers’ panel last month, a man in the audience asked why editors were even necessary. Why can’t anyone who wants to write, just write? Sylvia Taylor fielded this question from the perspective of commercial publication. She said people’s stories are the rough stones that are dug from the earth. What makes a diamond shine is the cutting and polishing.

Anyone who wants to write can, and often does. There are over 750,000 ebooks for Kindle on Amazon right now. At least some of them, I’m sure, are written by people who just wanted to write without the constraint of an editor or a proofreader.  

At that family reunion two of the people at the table commented that they, too, have written books. Each had written one book that has since been shelved. Completing a novel is a commendable effort; not many people get that far. Still, the first draft is closer to the starting gate than the finish line.

A person doesn’t have to be published to be a serious writer but there are some signs that a line has been crossed between messing about with words and being committed to the long game. Here are some indicators that the writer has passed that point of no return:

  • Writes. Writes a lot. Writes often.
  • Has always written a lot. If not fiction then letters, emails, shopping lists – anything.
  • Cares about the pesky points of grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Reads a lot and thinks about what she reads.
  • Is curious about the world at large. May be known to disappear from a party to check out the host’s bathroom cabinet or eavesdrop on the next door neighbours.
  • Makes choices that create time for writing.
  • Keeps learning through books, writing groups, conferences and coaches.
  • Realizes writing may never be a viable way of supporting herself but writes anyway.
  • Sets aside her ego and accepts critiques that will improve her writing.
  • Stands her ground when what she has written is true to her intent.
  • Thinks about her novel the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning.
  • Travels with a pen and paper to collect the precise words of conversations, the exact descriptions of landscapes.
  • Treats other writers with consideration and respect.
  • Considers the first draft of a manuscript the starting point of the work.
  • Knows to step back from the story, reflect on it and let it rest.
  • Writes with passion, succeeds with discipline (Shannon A Thompson).

What would you add to this list? What else tells you someone is serious about writing?


Frédéric Bazille via Wikimedia Commons: Bazille Family Reunion 1868