For someone that has profusely expressed his longing to write professionally, it might seem a bit odd for me to declare that I am not a wordsmith. In truth, I used to love that term. I found it to be a rather pithy and clever expression. Who wouldn’t want to think of themselves as a refined craftsman?
My change in attitude came from a friend and co-worker. This is a man for whom I have great respect. He’s highly intelligent, (although, like me, fails to live up to his potential), clever and wickedly funny. (He hails from the Boston area originally so I think it’s required that I use the term “wicked” in his description.)
While sitting at work, pretending to be busy (a worthwhile skill practiced by so many), we inevitably began a discussion about writing as a career. He expressed his dislike for the term “wordsmith”. In fact, I think his actual comment was “I fucking HATE that word! It’s so pretentious.”
Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared for that bit of sarcastic insight and while I neither submitted an agreement or disagreement, inwardly I felt just a touch offended.
“Who is he to make such judgement?” I asked myself. “What’s wrong with donning that title? It’s pithy and clever, dammit!” (Heh, I just got to use the word “pithy” twice in one article. I’m SUCH a wordsmith!)
Still, the seed of cynicism was planted and it grew. Just like when you buy a car and suddenly start seeing the same color and model everywhere, I began to notice all the wordsmiths that resided in the great blogosphere (another one of my favorite words). And the more I saw it floating around, the more I began to understand his hatred of that word. Anyone with a blog can (and usually does) call themselves a writer. While this is technically true, I have changed my definition of what that word means to me over the past year. “Wordsmith” strikes me as being far more conceited and bourgeois now, considering the quality of writing I’ve read from those who have bestowed upon themselves that title.
As I have discovered, taking the great leap of courage and faith into the spooky realm of professional writing requires mastering fear and building confidence. Writers, like most creative folks, tend to be a bit sensitive about their work and insecurity abounds. I can understand someone wishing to use the mantra “I’m a wordsmith, I’m a wordsmith, I’m a wordsmith” as a balm against the wounds we receive. It creates a sense worthiness and suggests that we possess a skill to be revered. And truthfully, with as much bad writing that flourishes on the internet, in journalism and in literature, good writing deserves to be recognized. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back too much.
What I’m doing right now isn’t rocket science. I’m putting words in a specific order to convey an idea. Yay me. Someday, I hope someone will financially compensate me for doing this. I really like being able to pay my bills on time. And writing is immensely pleasurable for me and yes, it is a form of art. But my cynicism seed has blossomed into a towering, flowering plant and I reject the wordsmith title. I’m ok with just being that guy that spends too much time on his laptop tapping away happily at the keyboard, believing that someone out there is enjoying my work.
I’ll leave the smithing to the burly guy with the hammer and anvil.