–By Jilian Whitehead
I have a complicated relationship with the phrase “aspiring writers.” On one hand, it’s useful, because it seems to be that bridge between a professional, published writer (which seems to be the benchmark of being a writer) and someone who just writes for fun (which is great by itself). It makes it sound like you have a purpose, that you’re working on some magnificent story with starry eyes, and that someday, you’ll make it.
But on the other hand, it’s constraining. I mean, aren’t all writers . . . just writers? If I’m writing, then how am I aspiring to be a writer? Doesn’t the very act of writing make me a writer?
Calling yourself an aspiring writer is by no means wrong, but usually, I like to leave off that ambiguous adjective. If you write, you’re a writer; there’s no want or aspiration about it. Why does it seem like if you finish a story or poem and get published, that process automatically allows you to graduate from an “aspiring” writer to a “professional” one? You could maybe say you’re now a “successful” writer because you’ve made money out of it, but really, it’s just the same as before. You write, therefore you are.
But, to play the devil’s advocate with myself, maybe the aspiring part of writing never actually ends. Writing doesn’t exactly have standard levels to pass like grades in school or belts in karate. There’s no bar that measures when you’ve become a master of the craft, and many people argue that there’s never a time when you know everything about writing. In that case, maybe we’re not aspiring to be writers, but are writers that are aspiring. To write words we’ve never read before. To find our purposes between the pages. To encourage people with our stories.
It’s exactly this kind of playing with words and meanings that makes me love writing so much. (By the way, have you ever thought of how “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean the same thing?) Maybe the term “aspiring writers” means something else to you as well. While you think over it, why don’t you get some writing done?