If you’ve been writing for any length of time, and especially if you’ve gotten something published, you’ve probably run into the Proto-Writer and their oblivious laments. The person who, upon finding out you’re a real writer, is quick to chime in with some variation of one of these lines:
“Hey, I’m a writer too! I’ve never written anything, but I have all these ideas…”
“I started writing a book once, but it takes too long. I’ll finish it someday.”
“I have all these great ideas for books, I’m going to write them one day. I’ll tell you, but you can’t steal my ideas, okay?”
This is an anecdote from my real life.
Several weeks ago, two men came into my work (my day job!) to service something–they aren’t coworkers, just contractors–and I know one of them fairly well but hadn’t seen him in about six months. As such, he cheerily asked me how my books were doing, how many I have published now, and how things are going in the writing world. I chatted with him about all things writerly in my life, and noted that the other man (who I had never met before) was clearly eavesdropping and boggling at our conversation. When my acquaintance walked off, the other man started asking me about my writing and published works too.
Then came the bombshell. “I’m a writer too! I’ve had all these ideas for kids books, you know? I jotted down some ideas in a notebook, all these stories I’ve made up for my kids over the years, but I’ve never gotten around to writing them.”
I politely chatted with him about it, told him I really didn’t know much about children’s books but it sounded nice, and answered his questions about publishing. Then, as he was packing up to leave, he said something that still has my head spinning:
“Well, you have to concentrate on the job that pays before you can take time to write, you know? Gotta pay the bills before you can just do stuff like that.”
I looked over my shoulder, thinking I was on Candid Camera.
He said this to me, a published author.
At my day job, where I work to pay the bills.
And he didn’t seem to have any self-awareness about it.
I didn’t call him out, just smiled and nodded. I hope someday he will write those children’s books, against all odds he’s set up for himself. I completely understand the need to work, and how sometimes being busy means you can’t get much writing in day to day, but you don’t have to actually retire first to become a writer.
At the end of this anecdote, I have a message for all you Proto-Writers out there:
Don’t wait for time to write, make it. If you wait, the time will never come.
I’ll also pound my mantra into the sand here: Writers WRITE.