Some time ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about writing, and she said “You know, now with Facebook and Twitter and blogs, everyone is sort of a writer”. And as someone who works in publishing, I was not pleased by that. Is it that easy to become a writer now? Don’t you have to at least be published/in the process of being published? By a real publishing house? This is a bit like that Friends episode in which Rachel’s sister calls herself an interior decorator because she decorated their dad’s office! I mean, I’m an editor (and let’s not even go into all the actual writing that comes with that territory), I have a blog, but I don’t call myself a writer, so how dare they?
But then, I started thinking. Isn’t this a good thing? The democratization of a craft that was earlier the preserve of just a few? And well, writing is a mode of communication, after all, which is what the internet is all about. Of course, if we were to count all of this as writing, then we must admit there is a marked drop in the quality thereof, but that is the case with most things that go mass.
Maybe we should have another name for it. We’ve got blogging, which works fine. For the others, how about Social Netwriting? Of course, that implies that these writers only write socially, which brings me to another question: whom does one write for? Is it fair to assume that everyone wants to be heard, liked, and retweeted, and is generally hungry for attention and approval? While that may be true for some, it can’t possibly be the same for everyone, right? I sometimes “write” to spread awareness about something, sometimes to vent steam about something, sometimes to wish someone a happy birthday, and sometimes, just because I heard/read/thought of something interesting or funny and I wanted to share it - and due to the leaps in technology, I can share it with several people at once.
And this question of readership and validation through numbers. Does it matter if the only people reading your writing are your friends? Should it matter? Should it matter how many “likes” you get on an update, how many comments on a blog post, how many retweets? Are you a writer if no one reads you?
Nope, I’m not convinced. Because when people ask what you do, they do mean professionally, not in terms of “hobbies”. So to me, “I’m a writer” means “I’m published or going to be”, not “I tweet 600 times a day”.