Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Seeing Yourself as a Writer
Tanya made an interesting observation in a comment to a recent post: many academics don't see themselves as writers. I see myself as a professor (teacher), an academic expert and researcher, but I also see myself as a writer. The genre in which I write are poetry, translation, and academic non-fiction prose, but I am a writer above all else. You can tell, many times, when an academic is writing out of that mind-set, as opposed to thinking of him or herself as "only" a psychologist, or a historian, or a geographer.
One way you know you are a writer is if you are reading other writers for the pure pleasure of style, if you take lessons from the great novelists and essayists of the language in which you are writing. I don't make a firm distinction between genres, although some models are "closer at hand."
Novelists are better models than poets, because they have to sit down for hours a day very regularly in order to produce their work. Poetry is also essential, though, because it is the genre with the least degree toleration for bad writing. You can't get away with anything in a poem.