So I was watching the film, ‘Julie & Julia’ (2009), featuring Meryl Streep as the fearless Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell.
I love this film – it has Meryl Streep, it has food, it has France, it has a perfectly charming cat and, as a bonus, it has New York. This film, through Amy Adams’ character, always inspires me to want to take Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and devour the desserts (which is not always a feasible endeavor, albeit it would be a tasty one).
I enjoy watching the various mishaps Julie Powell (Adams) endures as she works to discipline herself into finishing what she’s started (for those who haven’t yet seen the film, Julie Powell has challenged herself to cook through Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of a year and keeps a blog about it). And Julia Child’s evident joy in all things French is translated to perfection through Meryl Streep’s brilliant performance.
This, however, is not a movie review. This is about a specific line that is used in the film that never fails to annoy me, as a writer, an indie author, an author-preneur. I’ve read the book, but it’s been awhile and I don’t recall reading that particular line (and if it is in the book, it probably annoyed me there, too).
What’s this line, you ask?
“You’re not a writer until someone publishes you.”
This, for me, is the single worst line in an otherwise enjoyable and above-standard film that features women in leading roles (their husbands are in the supportive role, which is quite rare).
If you keep a journal, you’re a writer. If you jot down poetry on random pieces of paper and keep them collected in a folder or notebook, you’re a writer. If you write songs, plays (stage or screen), short stories, novels – guess what, friends and neighbors? You’re a writer.
How do I know this? Because writing is an act – it is not a status, it is not a label, it is not qualified as such because it has been viewed by the outside world.
Writing is a deeply personal act – it is the conscious and the subconscious working together to weave imagery into word-form. Sometimes writing is about purging whatever is festering in one’s heart. Sometimes a character or two demand that you take them out and do something with them.
Or it’s something else entirely.
Whatever the case, if you are putting pen to paper and producing words because you are driven to do so (because to not do so is to deny that creative spark a chance to express itself), you are a writer.
And when there are days (and there are these dull days) when the urge to write is non-existent and yet, you still push through and get words out (and they may be terrible words, it happens, don’t stress, that’s what re-writing and revision is for), you, my friend, are a writer.
So, to go back to that line again and put it in a little bit of context – Julie (Amy Adams) is complaining that she could write, she has lots of ideas (her exact word is thoughts).
This is all directed at her husband, who is, rightfully, pointing out that she does write, she wrote a novel.
To which she responds, “Half a novel. No one wanted to publish it, anyway.” And then the offending line, “You’re not a writer until someone publishes you.”
And that’s where she misses the point – no one will publish your book if you only have half a book. And they won’t even look at it if it hasn’t been written. Because the only difference between a writer who is not published and a writer who is published is a contract from a publisher.
Writers write. Always.