At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I would like to admit that one of my biggest pet peeves is a blogger anointing himself as a “writer”. I’m not talking about authors who live and breathe the life of letters and who have simply endeavored into the online medium. I’m talking about the seeming endlessness of blogging novices and professionals who blatantly label themselves as “writers” when their sites are nothing more than reviews on fashion, food, and whatnot; or narcissistic recollections of their travels, together with occasional inspirational posts (hey, they need web traffic to justify their ad banners), and their emotionally-charged rants.
I personally don’t consider myself a writer in the traditional sense. And even if it was my “profession”, I am adamant to believe it will allow me to be considered as one, even though I do write. But just because you’re writing reviews about your latest ramen find, or evaluating whether a recent fashion show was more frivolity than art, I’d assume it is common sense to avoid labeling oneself as a writer.
I have no qualms if you call your posts as writing, or endure suspicions of false humility by responding with, “I write for a living”, when family or friends inquire about your work. My disdain is I towards bloggers who call themselves writers just because they write, the same way some would even call themselves photographers simply because they find the manufactured and poised sartorial elegance (and most of the time, inelegance) in their blogs as sufficient to be considered photographer. To me, the art forms of photography and writing are slowly being diluted since online medium encouraged mass consumption.
Writing, at its purest, is the expression of humanity, and at its greatest, is the extension of humanity that it manages with just enough force and profundity to outlast the creator.
In Letters To A Young Novelist, the Peruvian-Spanish writer Mario Vargas Llosa best defined the literary vocation. He writes:
The defining characteristic of the literary vocation may be that those who posses it experience the exercise of their craft as its own best reward, much superior to anything they might gain from the fruits of their labors. That is one thing I am sure of amid my many uncertainties regarding the literary vocation: deep inside, a writer feels that writing is the best thing that ever happened to him, or could ever happen to him, because as far as he is concerned, writing is the best possible way of life, never mind the social, political, or financial rewards of what he might achieve through it.
And perhaps as a postscript, let me share to you a quote from Jose Dalisay Jr’s foreword in Pinoy Septych and Other Poems. While his sentiments focus on poetry, it is broad enough to be applied to writing, and maybe even other forms of art in general. Action does not denote the possession of the noun. Feel free to substitute poet/poetry/poem with any art form you like.
Indeed I cringe when I hear the word “poet” tossed around at universities and workshops the way a bored and sleepy dealer hands out the cards at a poker table, and the way a losing player desperate for a pair of ace grabs them. I suspect that poets should wait to be called that by others; until then we just write poems, or try to. Poetry remains for me the hardest thing to write well and the easiest thing to do badly.