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, I noticed several articles out there advising writers to abjure the moniker “aspiring writer.”
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 There are plenty of unpublished writers more skilled, more devoted, and more attuned to the literary arts than published writers.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 teaching to convey to my students 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 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 Greek meaning “to breathe.” Aspirate. In that sense, to be an aspiring writer is to be a writer by nature, and 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 want to do as writers and to work realistically based on where they presently are in relation to their goals.
I don’t see it is 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 lofty 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 declared, failure is possible. Once 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 see the humor in the branding of Aspiring Writer Syndrome. If not, maybe we can help you get to a place where you understand that you, too, suffer from the condition. Worse things could happen, no?