This is another school assignment, this one completed for a Creative Writing course. In the syllabus, the teacher described three types of writers: The sensitive diarist, who cringes at publicity; the writer, who is happy to see their work published; and the artist, whose lofty goal is to become “a first-rate author.” The assignment was to “Tell me which of the three groups (Diarist, Writer, or Artist) you think you fall. Also, tell me how good you are at accepting criticism.”
When I first read the three categories of writers, Diarists, Writers, and Artists, my mind immediately said, quite clearly: “No. Yes. NO.” But then my thought process kicked in, resulting in the usual confusion that occurs when the cogs of one’s brain begin to turn. Eventually, the answers became: “A little bit. I guess. I hope not.” Then these phrases all collided to form the all purpose sentence: “I don’t know.” But I guess I really do, sort of, maybe, and hopefully writing this will help me sort my thoughts out.
Actually, I did keep a diary when I was little, in a very nice notebook with a very fine painting on the front of well-dressed bunnies having tea in a lovely meadow. The book was eventually filled with the horribly embarrassing thoughts of a little girl with messy handwriting. When I lost it (which says something both about my attachment to it and my orderliness) I chose a notebook with blue hydrangeas on it. It’s slightly less cringe-worthy reading. I’d developed some taste by then, and also decided that no one would want to know exactly what mundane things we did in Shreveport that day. It’s still a bit pretentious and full of attempts at “depth,” but seriously, how much depth is in a sheltered twelve year old? In the end, I gave up. I’m still not much good at writing about myself to myself. However, when I write to my best friends, that’s a different matter, so much so that I once addressed an e-mail to “Dear Diary.”
But in one way, I am a Diarist. Stored on my laptop are several word documents filled with little snippets of stories, occasional poems, even an essay. Most of them are incomplete, but I didn’t necessarily write them to be complete. I wrote them because I had an idea, and needed to release it. I enjoy making up my own little stories. I need creative outlet. But I do want some of my stories to be published. The best ones. What good are they if I am the only one that can experience them? I can be somewhat shy about my writing, to be sure, but in my heart of hearts I still want it read.
As to being an “Artist,” a “full-time, first-rate author, with all the grueling, lonely hours this entails…” I should like to be published someday, I think I really would, but I don’t write just to write. I write because words are what stories are made out of, and I love to read stories, and I hope other people do too. But the idea of lonely hours is not appealing. I like real people too. And, to tell the truth, I also believe I’ve met “writing artists,” and I don’t like them. Without going into too much detail, artists in general are…I don’t like people with “artistic taste,” or “artistic temperaments,” because those phrases are often just used as an excuse for bizarreness, for flightiness, for, it must be said, for walking all over the rest of us mere mortals. Now, I must admit that I do sometimes see all these tendencies in me. But I at least attempt to squash them as soon as I notice these “creeping poisons.”
I think, after all, I am just a mere mortal, who might one day seek to walk with the gods (of writing). I bask in encouragement, in fact, I need it, but I do manage criticism, because I do want to be better at writing, and that’s what it’s going to take. I don’t want be an Artist, and the road I travel is too fraught with dangers for a Diarist. I write stories. I am a Writer.