Purr Like a Lion or Write Like a Writer

Purr Like a Lion or Write Like a Writer

When I was drafting my intro to this website, I wrote something to the effect of “I’ve been writing forever, but I wasn’t writing like a writer.” And just as I finished scribbling those words, I asked myself, “Well, what does that mean?”

What does that mean?

I had heard the expression, used the expression, and it genuinely resonated with me, but what did it mean? I confess I can complicate the simplest of ideas.

My mind is wired to understand core and intended meanings, and while I had an intuition that the expression was true—I wasn’t writing like a writer—it challenged me to articulate it. So here we are.

Unique Beings and Writers

You might know what it means—to write like a writer—and, if you do, please share your thoughts in the comment section below, because I think it might mean something a little different, depending on who we are as unique beings and writers.

Taking Writing for Granted

In looking back, I reckon my intent of using the expression was a confession of sorts, an admission that I had taken writing for granted these past decades, and now it was time to get serious, get back to poetry, venture into fiction and all its forms, you know … like a writer.

A Writer is …

So, a writer is someone who writes words, right? Not my definition, but the basic dictionary tells us that a writer writes. I think Wikipedia’s definition more closely aligns with my ideal:

“A writer is a person who uses written words in different writing styles, genres and techniques to communicate ideas, to inspire feelings and emotions, or to entertain.”


I think that hits a little closer to home, don’t you?


Also, you may have heard something like, writing is art done with words, it’s a vehicle with which to deliver your message to the world, it’s a way to make emotions visible, it’s personal.

These are fair descriptions, although I might argue that while writing like a writer unveils the personal, it may imply writing becomes less than personal when you share it with the world. (Hmmm… could that stop us from writing … sharing?)

Is it key, then, that writing like a writer means sharing your work outside of yourself? Probably, somewhat. I think we’re moving closer.

We probably agree that a writer is someone who uses words to express … something—thoughts, feelings, identity, values, and so on—for any number of purposes, whether to inform, entertain, or both. How do we, as writers, express this? In other words, how do we write like writers?

“Write Like You Mean It”

Thomas C. Foster has written an entire book on the topic. At least that’s what the title suggests—How to Write Like a Writer: A Sharp and  Subversive Guide to Ignoring Inhibitions, Inviting Inspiration, and Finding Your True Voice.

It’s probably a brilliant book on motivation and on craft (not finished reading yet), but in his intro, he provides his view of what it means to write like a writer, which is “Write like you mean it.”

I can get behind that, but for me it’s still a bit vague. I need ‘big’ meaning, you know?

I’m not suggesting there is a single answer to this question—remember, I am a ponderer by nature, and I’m a deep diver for meaning. More than once, I’ve banged my head on the shallow end.

What If?

I think, for me, I came closest to understanding what it means to write like a writer, when I found this gem of a book in one of my favorite places—any old, used bookstore, the older the better—What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.

It’s almost as if Anne Bernays had expected my query when she wrote in the introduction:

To be a good writer, you must know how to do two very different things—write like a writer and think like one.

Writing like a writer means having absolute control over your material and your tools. Writing like a writer means, for instance, knowing when to use dialog and when to summarize discourse, learning how to use adjectives and adverbs, and being able to name characters and anchor them in real time and space.

Thinking like a writer…

—Anne Bernays (What If?)

Let’s stop Bernays’ words there, less I wander down another rabbit hole of ‘thinking like a writer.’

Stocking the Toolbox

The What If? introduction provided me with a simple and sensible answer to what it means to write like a writer. Tools and material are at its heart. I agree. Now I have something to work with.

While a lion may purr by natural tendency, writers write like writers by wielding a variety of tools and materials they have worked diligently to gain, regardless of any natural acuities they may have been born with. My knowledge thirst has been quenched … for now.

What do you think?

I look forward to exploring the various tools and materials we all use to write like writers in future blogs—it’s an ever-evolving topic. I found satisfaction in today’s topic, and it comforted me greatly to learn I am not the only one asking what it means to write like a writer.

How about you? What do you think it means to be a writer? What does it mean for you to write like a writer? And what tools do you use to express yourself as a writer? Let me know in the comments below.

We’re on this planet together. I feel the least we can do is ponder together.

a steel bucket filled with lavender cuttings


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