Ordinarily, I find guides for writers to be depressing. This is probably because reading about writing makes me uncomfortably conscious of the fact that I'm not actually writing. They're a little like confronting an overstuffed closet or a long-neglected inbox. Nevertheless, I loved Forest for the Trees * by Betsy Lerner. Lerner is an editor and this book is her advice for writers and she had me hooked from the first paragraph of the first chapter, in which she lists the characteristics of the "ambivalent writer." Obsessive? Check. Constantly writing sentences in your head? Check. Psychiatrically challenged? Check. Plagued with anxiety-related skin rashes? Check.
All this time, I've been defining a writer as someone who has published books or articles. Betsy Lerner helped me realize that one is a writer if one writes. It's that simple.
Like many unpublished writers, I imagine that finding a publisher for your book is the golden ticket, but Lerner says bluntly that this is the moment at which your troubles really begin: editing, marketing, dealing with book sellers--even if your book is published, it seems like it has a slim chance of being seen by readers. That is a little discouraging, but the overarching message is that you need to write what YOU love, which is really liberating.