A List Of 50 Things That Don't Make You A Writer

A List Of 50 Things That Don’t Make You A Writer

You want to become a (good) writer? According to Gabino Iglesias, you don’t necessarily need these 50 things. 


In March of 2016 I sat down and wrote a list of things that don’t make you a writer. At the time, the piece was published in a blog (now defunct) and the reactions were…well, if you’re familiar with the social media, you know how ugly things can get. From insults to threats and from hateful mail to at least two blog posts in response to the original piece, the list haunted me for weeks.

Four years went by and the list of things that don’t make you a writer grew a little. Now, here’s the thing: the only thing that makes you a writer is writing. The process is simple: you put your ass in a chair and you write.

That’s it. Getting published, winning awards, having an agent, getting that sweet Netflix deal, and everything else writers dream about are things that may or may not come, but the writing is always at the core of who we are and what we do.

The process is simple: you put your ass in a chair and you write.

In any case, as I met more and more people who claimed they were writers but never produced anything, the list I kept in my head grew. Now that I have perfect the art of not caring how people on social media react to my work (I write about diversity in publishing and insult Trump regularly, so I have seen it all), I thought it was time to bring back a bigger, better list. Hope you enjoy it.

Things that don’t make you a writer:

  1. Owning a laptop.
  2. Going to a coffee shop to stare at your laptop while cycling through the same three or four social media platforms.
  3. Taking photos of your French press.
  4. Owning a cat.
  5. Having an Instagram account.
  6. Knowing a guy who knows a publisher.
  7. Putting the word author in your Twitter bio.
  8. Drinking/talking about/enjoying coffee.
  9. Living next to a university.
  10. Hanging out with writers.
  11. Telling people you’re working on something.
  12. Putting on a “funny” literary shirt.
  13. Being able to name ten Stephen King books (five of which you haven’t read but have seen the movie adaptation).
  14. Having a drinking problem.
  15. Naming your pets after characters in famous novels.
  16. Reading Rick Moody and talking endlessly about it.
  17. Approaching women in bars to talk to them about how much you love the work of David Foster Wallace.
  18. Approaching men in bars to talk to them about how much you love the work of Jane Austen.
  19. Making jokes about Thomas Pynchon.
  20. Having a Goodreads account.
  21. Listening to obscure bands that like to use more than twenty words per song and wear a lot of flannel.
  22. Watching a lot of art films.
  23. Complaining about the state of publishing.
  24. Going to AWP.
  25. Saying authors are your heroes.
  26. Hating James Patterson.
  27. Hating YA.
  28. Talking about writing on Facebook.
  29. Sharing fake word counts.
  30. Being unemployed.
  31. Lounging.
  32. Being a beer snob.
  33. Making fun of people who read romance novels.
  34. Wearing glasses.
  35. Correcting people’s grammar on social media.
  36. Describing yourself as a wordsmith.
  37. Living in an artsy (aka gentrified) part of town.
  38. Applying to low residency MFAs like it’s going out of style.
  39. Having ideas.
  40. Thinking you have what it takes to write a novel.
  41. Reading more than ten books per year.
  42. Skimming through literary blogs.
  43. Claiming no one understands you.
  44. Buying a typewriter.
  45. Using hashtags about writing while on Twitter, which is where you go to waste your time so you can claim you never have time to write.
  46. Getting an MFA.
  47. Not getting an MFA because you’re from the school of hard knocks. You know, or you went to Miskatonic University if horror is your thing.
  48. Going to therapy.
  49. Having a blog you haven’t updated in six years.
  50. Retweeting writers.

Yeah, basically the only thing that makes you a writer is writing, so get to it. Write like your life depended on it, because your life as a writer depends on it.


To read the collection of other essays by Gabino Iglesias on Mystery Tribune, please visit here.

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