I got my first paid writing gig in 2007. For $5 a piece and a modest revenue share, I wrote about breast feeding, not breast feeding, diapers, binkies, playdates, teething, crib bumpers, carseats, carriers, and anything else that might attract ads in the crowded but coveted parenting space.
That writing wasn't art, but the discipline of doing it taught me a lot about structuring online content, and SEO, and affiliate marketing, and HTML.
Along the way, I also learned about real writing. The arty stuff.
About a year in, a member of my writing group commented on a new new essay I'd submitted for critique-- probably something about abject guilt over missing a piano recital.
He said, "All this Internet writing has made you a better [real] writer."
I tell the story to remind you, to remind myself: All writing counts.
Email, grocery lists, strongly worded notes to your children who don't seem to know how the garbage disposal works.
Wordy and cliched journal entries.
Bulleted lists and doodles you make while you're waiting for the conference call to just please end already I beg of you all.
All that is writing. Even when it's not art.
It all counts.
But when you really want to communicate, whether an email to your boss or the first chapter in your personal act of literature, you need to practice getting your words and doodles and misbehaving thoughts pulled together.
That takes practice.
Elizabeth Ayers says that The Writer is the one who observes, records, scribbles snippets in a cheap spiral notebook (the only kind that's worth a damn for writing by hand).
The Writer lives in right brain territory. No filters, just write.
But for material to become something that other people want or need to consume, The Artist has to get involved-- to shape, translate, and transform.
The Artist imposes order. Hello, left brain.
This concept of The Writer and The Artist trashed my idea of right and left brain activity, of creative and logical work, of what is art and what is merely self-indulgence. (Not that there's anything wrong with gazing at thy navel.)
When I learned the difference between The Writer and The Artist, writing finally made sense.
Some people get frustrated with writing because they expect The Artist to write their first drafts.
When these misguided writers' thoughts hit the page, all out of sorts and messy as life, they tell The Writer she is stupid and she really should have saved her spiral notebook money for something more practical, like matches she can use to burn all those other stupid notebooks sitting in the drawer, holding all those other tangled ideas of hers.
Let The Writer write. And then let The Artist make art. Or silly stories, or well-crafted Facebook posts, or really badass emails.
The Writer gets to play.
The Artist needs to work.
But to get anything done, you've got to give both space, respect, and hold them accountable to DO something.
I'm not always an Artist. But I'm always a Writer.