On The Word “Writer”

A writer is a man who, embarking upon a task, does not know what to do

– Donald Barthelme

When you hear the word writer, what do you think of? Do you think of someone whose written work is unpublished? Do you think of someone with published work? Do you put other words before, like “aspiring”? A writer, for all intents and purposes, is someone who writes in a capacity of meaning. But what exactly does that? It means everything and nothing at the same time because there are multiple definitions- both personal and professional- of what the word “writer” means.

Perhaps being a writer means sending your thoughts out to the universe and hoping they ricochet on the source wall and strike the heart of someone, somewhere. There are twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, and we can attach each one of those letters to another letter, and then another. We could form a word with all twenty-six letters if we wanted to, though no such word exists (yet). We could form a sentence with all twenty-six letters if we wanted it. But after making that word or sentence, what happens to it? That is a simple explanation: it exists. When you write a word or sentence, it has been born. Maybe no one will see it, or maybe everyone will see it. When no one sees it, it’s in a universe all its own. When everyone sees it, it enters our universe and from there, who knows where it goes? Fortune telling is as fake as any other magic, but there’s something to be said for the hope that comes with putting something you’ve written out in the world.

Maybe being a writer means sleepless nights and anxiety towards the smallest details. This one isn’t writing exclusive- plenty of artists feel this way. But an artist isn’t staring at words typed on a screen or written in a notebook. They don’t have to worry about whether there’s a period at the end of this sentence or that sentence. They need not stress about commas or apostrophes. Or spelling the word “apostrophes” right the first time. And they need not worry about whether their using the write homophone in the context of their sentence. Writing is still an art form, so we understand artists just as they understand us. They take the universe we write in our heads and put it on paper. They take what we create and turn it into something new.

Perhaps being a writer means to create. Perhaps it means the long nights spent writing or what feels like an endless draft made even more endless. Perhaps it means staring infinity in the eyes and suggesting that, maybe, it has nothing on you. To be a writer, perhaps, means that your draft- wherever it exists- is there in that infinity somewhere. Elon Musk hasn’t built a rocket ship to it. Neil deGrasse Tyson has never had it in his museum. Scientists haven’t found it- yet. Yet is a key word. Yet is a universe waiting to happen.

Being a writer means not knowing what it means, but finding some meaning anyway.