The Craft of Fiction

A letter in the advice column “Blunt Instrument” over at Electric Literature asks:

“I’ve been blocked for years and avoid writing almost every day. So I guess my question is, am I not a real writer if I don’t feel like I have to write?”

Essayist and poet Elisa Gabbert replied: “I hate this idea — it’s both privileged (it’s a lot easier to write every day if you’re healthy, if you don’t have to work a full-time job, if you can afford to do stuff like have an office, pay for childcare, have a housekeeper, etc.) and gatekeeper-y (a way of keeping those less lucky people out of the game).”

Read the full response here:

What do you think makes a “real writer”?
Do you write every day?
What’s the longest you’ve been blocked?


I consider myself to be a writer. I don’t physically write every day, but while I work on a daily chore I listen to audio books or mentally work on a knotty real life or fictional obstacle.

If I’m using the computer and get stuck, I use @Danielw 's Typeform questions as exercises to help me focus. Highly recommended! :smiley:


I think being a writer means just having a passion for writing. For the art itself. You can’t fit all writers into a single box. Writing is very diverse and that’s pretty amazing.


Matt, It’s great to see you here again.

I agree that writing takes so many forms in its expressions. Perhaps this is why so many writers wonder if they qualify or meet the description they imagine in their mind of exactly what a writer is.

I believe some of this uncertainty (I have often felt myself) stems from when one says they are a writer the instant response is often one that expects a person is strictly a novelist. Having to quantify one’s writing can feel like having to justify that not all writing comes in the form of a best-selling paperback. It can feel like a judgment of worth as a writer.

I have shared when educating on the craft of writing to those that do not relate to the craft of wordsmithing, that if you have read it, someone wrote it, by definition a writer wrote it.

Being a little philosophical here, perhaps all the world are writers, simply in degrees?
If so, what a beautiful affirmation.

Thank you for your inspiring insights with the group, I am moved.



That is so true, that writing is not only the process of pen to paper, it is a complete well rounded experience.

While we steep ourselves in the written words of others we can become inspired to our own use of words.
We can learn from others problem solving skills by viewing /listening to how they have handled a similar situation whether it be imaganitve or the mechanics of writing.

Thank you for the reminder of the great tools we have on hand through Daniel. He has put so much thought into how to really help with the underlying snags we writers get hung up on.

I recall stumbling across Daniels teachings and feeling as though his courses were a godsend to have access to.

Do you have other favorite tools you use?

I am a huge fan of the “passages” worksheets from PPN+,
it was the exact tool I needed to keep moving forward with focus.


To me, a writer is a person engaged in “writing.” Dreaming or thinking about writing doesn’t make anyone a writer. Dreaming of being a queen doesn’t make anyone a queen. To be a writer you need to write. That’s the whole idea. It’s like an artist who doesn’t do art. I personally try to write every day, whether it’s a new chapter/scene/paragraph or simply revise what I already wrote. And when I don’t write, I don’t beat myself up. I get back to it when I have the opportunity.

Matt, I disagree. Just having a passion for writing doesn’t make anyone a writer. I have a passion for skiing, but I don’t ski, so having a passion for it doesn’t make me a skier.

Does the sparrow ask if they are a bird?


I am in the middle on these responses. I cannot physically write every day- obligations to family and work will not let me.
But… i wake most mornings and sometimes at 3:00 AM with a thought to add to an ongoing story or an idea for a new story. I turn these over in my mind until i have the chance to make it black and white.
I see the images. I see and hear the words. I write on imagined paper.
This certainly is still writing.
A writer has the words within before they are on the page. That is the soul of a writer.


I’m sure you did not mean this to be confrontational or derisive but, that being said, I can see where it could be taken that way. It could be hurtful, discouraging, or detrimental in other ways to your fellow writers. Also, it is not accurate. There are writers (yes, Writers) who can not write every day, due to physical, mental, or situational obstacles. That is like saying someone is not a “real” writer unless they publish, or until they sells a certain number of books. None of those things are true. As long as someone is striving toward the production of a story, novel, article, poem, screenplay, etc., whether that is planning it in their mind, plotting it on a napkin, studying to better their ability, journaling to get their thoughts clear, jotting down a line at a time as it occurs to them, or whatever might be part of their process, then they are a writer. I have written many stories over the past 35 years, and have had many of them published. However, I also suffered a severe case of writer’s block that lasted for 15 years. That did not make me less of a writer. There are writers in this group that have written daily for years, produced draft after draft, and have not yet published. And there are those who are still learning their craft, struggling to complete their first draft. None of us are any more or less a writer than any of the others.


Hello DeAnna. Thank you very much. Glad to be back. I totally get what you’re saying. I wish more people could appreciate the gift of writing and how it can benefit our lives whether we’ve published or not.


You don’t have to agree with me. I’m sharing my opinion to Deanna’s question. I understand and respect your opinion as well.


Thanks for your opinion!


Welcome to the group.

I would have to agree with @kellygunteratlas as we appreciate all that wish to participate, support and uplift one another to that place of writing to completion.

That being said, we honor your path to writing success as well and would enjoy hearing more specifically how you are using your technique for your own success and accomplishments as it pertains to you.

Would you be willing to share your methods? There are some that may really benifit from your example of your work ethic without the judgments of other’s individual styles.

Some of us take longer to work our words out in our minds before commiting those thoughts to paper. Some of us use the technique of mental rough drafts for creating a more polished plotline the first go-round (for less editing later).

I am quite certain there is more than one right answer for the approach to completed projects.

Much in the same way, there is more than one recipe for chocolate chip cookies. It is about preference of texture and taste and how the process of baking is enjoyed or not.

Please do share some of your completed works here with a breakdown of your writing schedule.

All recipes to proven success can be made useful.

Thank you.


Thank You for your kind and generous support.

To experience writers uplifting one another is always a pleasure.

Your words bring Finding Forrester to mind, and his one great book. Most importantly his encouragement of the next generation of promising talent, his contribution to literature immeasurable.

Heart warming.


Indeed, one must think it before it can happen it is the first written word to beheld in the mind’s eye.



I am really excited about all the energy and comments
this post has inspired amid a room full of fellow writers.

I adore seeing everyone so engaged in what it means to them to be a writer.

This is great!


Such a busy chat, but quite confusing who has written what in response to whom - I’m no longer sure which post I’m “replying to” – hopefully the original (in part) and collectively all the following comments too:

I found many of the comments inspirational, as was the linked reply from DeAnna’s original post, but you had to read through the entire reply to get that. I thought to add my two cents-worth here, just because whilst I am a writer, I don’t get to write every day. Not because I’m blocked, stumped, afraid, or any of the other suggested problems, but rather because I work as a freelancer and time is money, which in turn, is food on the table. I spend all day reading (and editing) other people’s words, so by the time I finish, almost the last thing I want to do is physically write!

However, I still aver that I am a writer because when I’m doing any of my other chores (walking the dog, cooking dinner for the family, grocery shopping, etc.) my novel is being written in my head, or new ideas are taking shape for the next one. When I finally get “pen to paper” or in my case “fingers to keyboard”, I’ll pretty much regurgitate all those writing-thoughts in one sitting (easily 10,000 words in a few evenings between projects). And then it may be many weeks before that happens again.

I am a writer, but often the writing happens in my head, eventually to spill out on paper. But writing is not all about words on a page, it’s the thought process behind those words too.

Warm regards to all,


This is unacceptable behaviour. I am removing you from the group.

Best wishes with your writing.


Hi everyone. I’ve removed that writer from the forum. It’s fine to offer tough love, I think, but calling people names is not okay.