I grind out a fair number of words around here, and on the side I’ve thrown together 53,032 words of fanfic. This massive body of work qualifies me to call myself — well, nothing, as Bill Quick explains:
Most people are horrible writers and have no hope of ever being anything but horrible. Even the ones who are dedicated enough to actually put out a few words are, for the most part, horrible. The people who put out lots of words, arrange them into finished products — books, stories, screenplays, even well-read blogs — are scarce as hen’s teeth. Scarcer. Because not only do you need to acquire the craft of writing (craft? who dat?), you need some sensitivity to the art of writing and then, at bottom, you have to have talent. I understand that within the American ethos there is something faintly … repulsive … about the notion that some intangible nobody can really quantify, something you may as well have been born with, makes you better than most other god-fearing Amurricans at doing something, but there it is.
I’d argue that I’m better at it now than I was sixteen years ago, but that doesn’t make me good at it.
Playing in the fanfic sandbox has been at times humbling. I don’t really think in long form — I have yet to produce a story over 20,000 words, though three of them could be reasonably combined into a single narrative in the 40k range — but I am surrounded by people who do this as easily as falling off a bandwagon, serving as a regular reminder of this particular inadequacy. (I have others.) Some of these folks might be good enough to make a living at this sort of thing. And if they do, they’ll probably run into the same issues Bill Quick does:
[P]ro writers (a pro, who gets paid for it, is almost by definition a writing success) get it from both directions: First, most folks think what they do is easy, and second, they resent that if it’s not easy, that’s because of some unfair advantage these mountebanks are born with.
And even in this sandbox, there are those who are unhappy with their lot. So what else is new?