Hello, I’m Benjamin Obler, the world’s first documented case of Aspiring Writer Syndrome.
We all know that corporations are people, thanks to Citizens United. Since this legal decision in 2010, I’ve slowly been coming into compliance with the unwritten national edict that all persons brand themselves and begin to live their lives as a living advertisement for their brands.
I found the task difficult. For years, I continued to host BenObler.com, in direct opposition to the new rules. Finally, I made a valiant effort and launched Aspiring Writer Syndrome in 2019.
Little did I know when creating Aspiring Writer Syndrome that some writers are opposed to the term “aspiring writer.” During the process of making sure search engines know about this site, we noticed several articles out there advising writers to abjure the moniker “aspiring writer.”
As the founder of this lucrative and controversial enterprise, I agree that there’s no need for anyone to think of themselves as undeserving of the title “writer” just because they haven’t published. A writer is one who writes, no question. If you write, you qualify. You can wear the badge. John Irving got that right in The World According to Garp, some 40 years ago. Additionally, it’s not true that published writers have any leg-up aesthetically, intellectually, or morally. They aren’t necessarily writers in any deeper sense. There are plenty of unpublished writers more skilled, more devoted, and more attuned to the literary arts than published writers.
It’s incredibly important to me personally, and it’s a central tenet of my professional work—both teaching and editing/consulting—to convey to my students and clients that the act and pursuit of writing is an end in itself, and a writer’s artistic growth is the only yardstick worth packing for the lifelong journey on the writer’s trail.
That said, here’s why Aspiring Writer’s Syndrome is the name of this far-reaching and incredibly prescient operation.
I think of aspiration as a positive thing. Sorry to use such a tired speech-maker’s trope, but the word derives from the Latin root aspirare meaning “to breathe.” Aspirate. In that sense, to be an aspiring writer is to be a writer by nature, one who is unstoppably alive. We breathe involuntarily. For some of us, the choice to write is foregone or automatic; it is no choice at all.
While I respect and work with all writers, writers who see the sense in this are the type of writers who I align with most. I get them, and they get me. We work well together, and part of our work is to identify what they wish to do as writers and to work together based on where they presently are in relation to their goals.
I don’t see it as a demerit to identify as an aspiring writer. I’ve achieved several of the goals I had as a beginning writer. Yet I now have new aspirations. It will always be this way with me. It’s not a come-down to admit this. I aspire to make literary art that endures. I aspire to write the kind of books that open minds, like my mind was opened by books I read as a young person seeking to understand the world. That remains an aspiration. I think it’s a credit to a writer to have such hopes.
I’ve worked with writers who declare no such high aims. Some writers distance themselves from aspirations because of what ensues once you declare them. Once goals are declared, failure is possible. Once goals are declared (if anyone’s listening), being judged becomes possible. In short: the armor is off, and you’re vulnerable. A thousand endeavors offer the same conundrum.
Doing a coy dance across the room from one’s aspirations usually ends up in the aspirations leaving with another partner.
So if you’re on board with this sentiment, you’ll likely not be offended by Aspiring Writer Syndrome, Inc. If not — if you don’t — maybe we can help you get to a place where you understand that you, too, have the condition. After all, it is a condition whose treatment is to write, and write better. Worse things could happen, no? Although in some forms the condition is life-threatening, when managed correctly, it is life-enriching.