Articles by, about, or with Rafe Martin

“What is a Writer?”, by Rafe Martin

An earlier version of this article appeared in the February 1998 edition of the online journal Wordwright.

What is a writer? Or when is someone a writer? That’s how the question actually appeared in my own internal thesaurus-dictionary for I had already written four or five award-winning children’s books before it began to dawn on me, “Maybe I can be a writer.” And it took me even longer to be able to actually say, “I am a writer.” For “writer”to me was such a charged, archetypal word. Like a mantle of gold, like the white bronze poet’s rod of the ancient Irish bards, it seemed there must be some special preparation, some sign, some certificate that makes it clear, and shows one’s worthiness—“Yes, you are a writer!” Or at least, “Now you are truly a writer.” After all, you need proper certification to teach little children and to operate a motor vehicle. Why not the same kind of healthy acknowledgment for the writer?

Forget it. Writers create their own certificate. Each alone, forges their own certification—stolen moments sequestered to work on a phrase, a line, a letter, “the book.” The awful anxiety when revealing “the work” to a friend, let alone the world. The nagging need to, “get it down”—to capture or express thoughts, experiences, emotions, ideas—in actual, specific words.

A writer, writes. Like a silent signal, the trace of fever, the glint of hidden passion revealed, it will emerge. Oh it will! Beware, I tell you! Even your e-mails will subtly give you away. For they will read as if whoever wrote them actually cared for the words! Or, maybe it will emerge in your conversations; the language twists around upon itself in interesting patterns to form, not just concepts, but clear images in the listener’s mind. Too late. You’ve been spotted. You can’t run and you can’t hide.

You’re already a writer. So you might as well let the beast out to have its way with you, your friends, family, and the world. You are sick, my friend, and the prescription is clear—find some time each week, minutes or hours, it won’t matter which, and write. Aha. You are a writer.