How William Stafford Defines the Essential Characteristics of a Writer

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Sustained Relations with Language

A writer is a person who enters into sustained relations with the language for experiment and experience not available in any other way.

William Stafford
Why does William Stafford define the essential characteristics of writers as relations with language?

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.
What follows is an invitation to celebrate the role of writing in your life, especially if you describe yourself according to the first definition of a writer. If you are someone who writes — or wants to write — books, articles, poems, stories, screenplays, essays, or anything else, to publish for other people to read, writing itself is the essential medium for your efforts and words are your essential partners (On Writing Words, pages 7-9).

About Writing the Australian Crawl

Comments by Amazon Readers

"Brilliant." Comment by Frank Ryerson
Like everything this man ever wrote or spoke! The greatest contemporary poet in the English language. A giant. A titan!
"A Must for Writers." Comment by Rachelle Benveniste
I bought this book for the second time because my first wore out. William Stafford is my muse. I am a writing teacher and he has helped so much with realizing how important compassion is to the writing process. "Welcome every word you write,"he says and of course, all writing is process, it is an act of discovery . Welcome that discovery and keep on writing, he seems to say. It is not about the poem being good or bad, it is about it being inevitable. There is not one poem that
can contain your truth. You write the "bad" ones along with the "good" and harvest a bounty of poems in your true voice. And in this way, Stafford seems to be saying, is how we let our heart sing and how we succeed. This book is a must for every writer.
"Wonderful Book on Writing Anything." Comment by Sheila Callahan
I really enjoyed these essays and poems. They gave me so many tips on writing ANYthing really. Here's a guy who doesn't believe in writer's block! I learned more about him too which was really interesting. Incredible human being.
[Original Post October 18, 2014]
What are your thoughts about your relations with words? Leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

On Writing Words: A Writer's Essential Relations with Words is about the essential writing skill that turns good writing into great writing, Great writing depends on choosing the right words.  

Writing is nothing more than choosing words and arranging them into a readable form. Great writing happens when your word choices communicate in a compelling way exactly what you mean to say to your readers and your readers understand exactly what you mean. The secret hidden in plain sight is that your skill as a writer depends on the quality your relations with the words you use. Your writing can’t be any better than your word choices. The better you know your words and the better care you take of them, the better writer you will become.

Available on Amazon in either Kindle or paperback versions. Click Buy Now From Amazon to get your copy now.

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