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I don’t know what a writer is. I am not a writer…or, am I? It sounds strange to my ears when someone else refers to me as being a writer. I work a day job. I don’t sit around at the fucking Starbucks with a laptop. I haven’t made a dime from doing this, regardless of the amount of people I may have entertained with the written word. The chair that I’m sitting in came from a Village Inn restaurant. So did the other three chairs in my kitchen and the table that they stand guard around. I’m in the spare bedroom of my apartment up on the third floor, trying to block out the sounds of the people down at the swimming pool. It’s after Labor Day. The sonofabitch ought to be closed now, anyway.

Is this the life of a writer? A miserable wretch getting drunk in front of a computer screen, chainsmoking while they click out gibberish? I don’t know what a writer is.

It seems that the misanthropist shadow inside of myself has developed an ever-increasing intolerance to questions. Questions such as, “So, when are you going to write a book?” I never have an answer to that question…not a consistent one, anyway. “Oh, I’ve got the first five chapters cranked out.” I might say. Or, “Book? I don’t have enough material for a goddam book. I’m a fucking hack…I’ve got nothing to say…no story to tell.” The worst query of all is, “So, what do you do?” Do? Do? What do I do? What the fuck kind of question is that? I am always finding new and creative ways to dodge this one, although inside of myself, I am saying, “Well, I do shit every day. I do pick my nose. I do eat a lot of junk food and I do drink beer.” I suppose I could respond by telling them that I write, but I don’t know what a writer is.

My therapist leaned forward in her brown leather chair one day. Her eyes focused at me in that dark way when she is about to say something serious. “Jacki…you are a writer.” She said to me. When she said this, she pushed the mute button. There was no sound, no word or phrase of admittance or denial that I could respond with. I was surrounded in an echo…”you are a writer…”

I don’t know what a writer is.

Jack Kerouac told his buddy Dean Moriarity in that beautiful tale of being On The
Road, “Hell man, I know very well you didn't come to me only to want to become a writer, and after all what do I really know about it except you've got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict."

Maybe that is what a writer is – whether or not they’re shit at it, maybe it’s just someone with that mad, burning compulsion to say things, no matter if anyone wants to read it. Maybe it’s sitting at the fucking Starbucks, maybe it’s rolling in those fat paychecks, maybe it’s sitting around drinking and smoking in a third floor apartment until it’s time to return to the day job. If Jack didn’t know, well, how in the hell can a poor mortal like me be expected to explain it?

Write what you know, they say. Well, no shit. “They” are always so full of profound wisdom, stating the obvious. All I can hope is that the next time I am confronted with, “So, when are you going to write a book?” I will have a more concrete answer. “Well, I’ve started it, you see.” The questioner will become intrigued, their eyes will light up. “Oh, and what is it about?” They will ask in return, as this is a standard and expected response. “Well, what else? It’s about what I know because I can only write what I know, it seems silly for me to be writing of what I don’t know, doesn’t it?” Then maybe, just maybe…someone will ask again what I do. I can respond by telling them that I am a writer, perhaps by then, I will even know what a writer is…

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The following comments are for "I Don't Know What a Writer Is"
by Rasmenia

Yeah,you're an effing writer.Did anybody ask the
caveman to chisel out simple representations of
hunting adventures onto the cave walls? No,but
they were still an artist,whether anybody was there to tell them or not."Grok! Oongowa bok thag
oongaboonga kopicha momo!" Or something like that.
Hey,if Britney Spears can call the crap she puts out music,then just from reading your fierce rant,
anybody can tell you've got the intelligence and
cojones to qualify you as a writer. Own it!

( Posted by: metrozol [Member] On: September 27, 2004 )

Yep you're a writer. Anyone who can paint a word vignette of their life this way has all the classic self-doubt, 'what the fuck is the world about? symptoms of true artistry. Embrace your ability with words, you're on a magical journey, treading a completely new path because everyone is different and can never travel the same way. Be all that you can be and then you'll be more.
Take care
Paul the Ogg

( Posted by: Ogg [Member] On: September 28, 2004 )

Exactly that.
Your life is exactly that of a writer: having a sucky day job, and getting drunk and smoking endless cigarettes in front of the computer screen. I just wish I had the alcohol to go along with my similiar picture. oh, yeah, and an occasional cigarette. addiction + writing they always go together. Gotta go write now. Wish I had a beer.

( Posted by: wrtrcat [Member] On: October 6, 2004 )

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