Go read this please:
Notes from Sara Zarr’s SCBWI Keynote address

There are obviously a lot of gems in that speech, but there was one gem in particular that jumped out at me, and I just needed to share. The one in the blog notes titled “Obsession with Process over Craft.”

Taken from the blog post notes:

“Being a writer” as opposed to being a writer: chronic conference goer, filer of inspirational quotes, outliner of novels, John Green follows you on Twitter … If this is you, you are not putting the time into your own work. It’s a life with all the accessories of being a writer – but not really doing it.”

This blog is an accessory. Mind you, I like this accessory. It’s lots of fun, it helps me relax and regroup and I hope it’s somewhat enjoyable to others. But it doesn’t mean I’m a real writer anymore than my really sharp Wusthof Santoku knife makes me a real cook. (Oh, how I love that knife.) Neither do dance shoes and tights make a dancer or voice lessons make a great singer.

The conferences I go to do not make me a writer. The notes, the quotes, the collection of autographed books do not make me a writer. Books about writing don’t make a writer, nor does writing about writing or posting about writing on Facebook or Twitter. Following industry news and agent and editor blogs does not make a writer.

So what makes a writer? Writing makes a writer. And rewriting. Taking the time and effort to improve your craft and write the very best that is in you makes you a writer. Nothing more, nothing less.

I’m not saying the accessories don’t have their place. They can help in several ways, and I do think it’s important to learn the ins and outs of the business. But we live in such a busy world with so much information at the tips of our fingers, so many ways to connect and share, and there comes a point where it’s just getting in the way of the main thing.

So here’s my unsolicited advice to you. Declutter. I know I’m saying that at the risk of you never reading my blog again, and that’s okay. This is just an accessory. (Just remember I only post once a week, sometimes even less, and they’re usually short. I’m already decluttering for you.:)

Keep your main focus on the main thing. Your writing, your creativity. That is what people will pay attention to. The “accessories” mean very little. The big stuff, the important stuff, is already in you. It takes time and focus to bring it out with power and voice.

Here’s to being a writer and not a “writer.”


  1. I think sometimes it’s easy to get sucked into feeling that we have to do all the extra stuff in order to be legit as a writer. I love that she gave everyone the freedom to NOT do that. In any case, I definitely am one who needs to declutter and focus more on writing.

  2. Great advice. I’ve been spending way too much time with my blog and am way behind on my goals.

    • ali

    • February 2, 2011

    • 12:15 am

    This is fantastic Liesl! I love, love, love this. THIS is why I no longer let myself get freaked out by not having the zillions of followers or posting every day or having dozens of comments whenever I do. Because THIS is just my way of connecting to my world, it doesn’t DEFINE my world.

    Anyway, excellent advice. Thank you! (And thanks for the link, too!)

  3. Yes! I loovvveee this. To put it bluntly, it’s all about Ass-In-Chair :).

    I think we all need this reminder sometimes…

  4. This is so important to remember. It’s easy to get sucked into it all but it doesn’t improve our writing. I have to remind myself to separate from internet and focus on just writing.

  5. You hear it again and again from agents when it comes to writing platforms: if it interferes with your writing, don’t do it. And that is so, so true.

    • Liesl

    • February 3, 2011

    • 1:23 am

    Jeni I thought Brandon Mull was a good example of that too. He said he really didn’t do anything outside his writing until he actually had books published. Something to be said for that.

    Elena- Amen! I have a rule that if ever I have a solid hour or more to myself there is no way I’ll do anything but write.

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