Definition of a Writer
The first time I read William Stafford's book, Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer's Vocation, I did something I had never done before with any other book I have ever read. My experience started with these words on page 12.
A writer is a person who enters into sustained relationships with the language for experiment and experience not available in any other way.
This definition intrigued me enough that I stopped reading Stafford's book at that moment. I decided that I would ponder these words myself before I read any more. My little book, On Writing Words: A Writer's Essential Relations with Words, is the result of thinking about each word in Stafford's statement.
Excerpt from On Writing Words:
Stafford’s definition of a writer is unlike any other I have ever read. Most definitions define you as a writer by what you write and how you write. His definition defines you as a writer by your relationship with language. What is particularly intriguing is how Stafford’s change of focus from "you as the writer," to "you as the writer in relationship with the words you use to write," results in an original and perceptive description of what it means to be a writer.
In Relations with Language
The critical word in Stafford’s definition of a writer is relations. To be a writer is to be in relationship with another. The other is language itself. This relationship with language is the defining characteristic of all writers.
At first glance, writing looks like a lonely occupation. The writer sits alone, sometimes staring at the computer screen or the blank paper, waiting for that magical moment when inspiration strikes. Then words come. The writer fills the screen or the paper with words, words, and more words. The writer is no longer alone. Even if the writer is on an isolated island in the middle of the ocean, a writer who writes is never alone.
When you write, you are involved in a relationship with the language itself. Words are not just passive tools for you to use for your purposes. Rather they are active participants in any writing project. If you have never thought of words as active participants in your writing, consider this reality. If you couldn't write words, you couldn't be a writer.