Thursday, January 3, 2013

Am I a “Real” Writer

By Donna George Storey (Guest Blogger)

Dear Younger Donna’s,

I’m writing to all of you, because I had a hard time choosing which one of you most needs to hear this encouragement. Do I write to the fourth grader who slipped a note into her ballerina jewelry box expressing a wish to become a writer when she grew up? The twenty-one-year-old college senior who’d just finished a novella as her thesis, but wasn’t sure she’d ever write again because it was harder than she expected? Or the thirty-four-year-old new mother who was just gathering the courage to make fiction writing the priority for her limited free hours?

All three of you have the same nagging question, a secret whisper of self-doubt. You want to be a writer, but you wonder if you had the talent to become a “real” writer. I know none of you have ever been fond of trusting the word of authority over your own experience and intuition. And I know you consider yourself immune to the pressure to be popular. You’ve always thought that “popular” is another word for “mediocre,” the top of a bell curve but nothing else. From this older and wiser perspective, however, I must respectfully point out that deep down you were swayed by the popular definition of a “real” writer. This was someone who was applauded by the critics, the media, and presumably the bank as The Voice of our culture: Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, John Updike, Saul Bellow.

Only your thirty-four-year old self thought to notice that these “real” writers were all men.

Fortunately, I have good news for all of you. Your dream will come true, even if you started your journey with your eye on a mirage. The journey itself is the destination. (Forgive the cliché, but these words are often repeated because they are often true.) It will be a difficult one. Your ego will be lacerated. You will suffer anger and doubt. But you will have your answer in the end.

Along the way you will discover that while telling a story may seem as natural as speaking, it’s a skill you must practice, like playing a musical instrument, improving imperceptibly day by day. Writing will become a spiritual exercise unlike any you’ve known. In the service of conveying setting and texture, your awareness of the natural world around you will be gloriously heightened. Your empathy will grow as you come to understand human desire, nobility, and folly on a deeper level as your characters lead you through their story. You will appreciate the powers of the human imagination to create--and deceive--as never before. And you will draw upon unrealized reserves of courage to write in a genre, erotica, which is condemned without due process.

The majority—writer and non-writers alike—will still define a “real” writer as a rich celebrity, but you will know the truth behind the glamorous lie. That is my point. No one else can ever award you the honor. You must earn it, and claim it, for yourself on exactly the terms you choose.

How’s that for a happy ending?

Sincerely yours,



Fifteen years ago, Donna George Storey started writing erotica as a new mother desperate for something interesting to do during the baby’s nap. She’s published over a hundred adult-only tales in places like Penthouse, Best Women’s Erotica, Best Erotic Romance, Best American Erotica, and The Mammoth Book of EroticaPresents the Best of Donna George Storey. She is the author of Amorous Woman, a novel about an American woman’s love affair with Japan, which was based on her own experiences living in Kyoto. Learn more at www.


  1. I wonder why writers torment themselves by questioning "real"ness. If you exist, I'm pretty sure you're real.

  2. I agree with you, but then again one can always ask, "What is existence?" "What is reality?" ;-)

  3. What a sweet photo, and a lovely message :)

  4. Hi, Donna,

    My husband doesn't believe in reality.

    And I believe we make our own.

    Thanks for joining us this week!

  5. My MIL tells me that since I'm not "making money", that I should give up this time-consuming "hobby" of mine. She's never read even 1 of my 11 published books because they are "dirty".

    I don't know what a "real writer" is anymore. Someone who doesn't have to work 2 other minimum wage jobs to pay the bills? Someone who can afford to pay for publicity? Someone whose words touch a place deep within the reader to resonate with their experience of being human? Someone universally panned by critics but loved by readers who never read but who loved your book?

    Thanks for making me think.

  6. Thank you, Jo!

    Lisabet, I believe we make our own reality, too, and get better with practice.

    Fiona, those are excellent questions, and I've heard them, some from inside myself, some from people who don't write, but seem to be experts on the matter. Someone who actually writes stories probably has different priorities at different times. But what I hope to avoid as much as possible is letting a thoughtless definition of "real," which is actually based on fantasies of the great artist, hold me back!

  7. Hi Donna!

    Thank you for coming by our blog. I've seen your stories everywhere in anthologies in book stores and at ERWA.

    I especially like what you say about writing as a kind of spiritual path, as a way at getting at the soul of human experience and what it means to be human.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.