The Definition of "Writer"
Sitting around a dinner table the other night, looking at a platter of cold, congealed, uneaten nachos (and believe me, they deserved to remain uneaten), I listened as one writer, who I don't know very well, talk about how frustrated she was that she didn't have more time to write. And yet, if I did my math right, she has more writing time in a week than I have in a month. I looked around the table: six other writers in all were doing their own personal mathematical equations . . . and sighing, shifting uncomfortably in their chairs, avoiding eye contact with each other and longing for a change of subject. I was snapped out of my own daze when someone asked, "When do you write, Gary?" I impulsively said, "August."
The whole energy of the table shifted. Someone laughed; someone blew a raspberry through their lips; someone dropped a piece of bread in their glass of water, but everyone was immediately making comparisons. Was I joking? Was I telling the truth? I continued, "I write in August. I rewrite the other eleven months of the year." The table shifted again. Was I joking? Was I telling the truth? A final offer: "It's all I can do. I work full time at the Guild, I teach at NYU, I travel around the country, I have a house that needs constant attention, I have really fun friends that I want to spend time with and a father who's 88 years old and needs me to care for him. It's what I can do. It's all I can do." Was I joking? Was I telling the truth?
The whole energy of the table shifted with an unspoken, "Well, at least I do more than that." But here's what I didn't say: I write every day when I ride the subway and study how a young man can't meet my gaze, but instead studies his fraying shoe lace. I write when I sit in a theatre and watch a beautifully rendered character a skilled playwright has constructed. I write when I make a convincing argument to my father that not eating Wonder Bread might lower his blood sugar. I write when I help dissect a failed relationship with a friend who's been left heart-broken and feels robbed of his youth. I write when I see the first sprigs of green shoot up from the dirt under a mound of half-melted snow. BUT, I sit in front of my computer in August.
There is no singular definition of "writer," there's only the intense desire to write plus the reality of my life. I get to choose whether to see it as addition or subtraction.
Executive Director of Creative Affairs