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HASHTAGGERS' DELIGHT

For seven years, a global community of writers has been using a hashtag to complain about writing

An overwhelming array of books
Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
Every book starts somewhere.
  • Ephrat Livni
By Ephrat Livni

Senior reporter, law & politics, DC.

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Writers are mildly delusional. They have to be, to abracadabra a story into existence and then hope, against all odds and evidence, that it actually gets read.

According to an oft-cited 2002 survey, 81% of Americans, about 200 million people, believe they have a book in them. But blockbuster sales and critical acclaim are hard to come by: Just 40 self-published authors hit sales of 1 million e-books between 2010 and 2015. One of them, romance writer Meredith Wild, took out 10 credit cards and a personal loan to pay for a six-figure marketing campaign for her erotic novel Hardwired. Most authors don’t (and can’t) invest what Wild did. Still more struggle to even finish their books.

In pop culture, being an author tends to involve frequent phone calls from angry editors, who just want you to send them the pages. But when writing for yourself, motivation must come from within. No one cares if you ever get it done. Really.

Enter Twitter: Using the hashtag #amwriting, scribes across the globe convene daily to procrastinate, find inspiration, and kvetch collectively. The hashtag’s creator, Johanna Harness, calls it ”an ongoing chat, meant to happen in the background of a writer’s day” and “a place where writers connect with other writers, for mutual encouragement and support.” Since first appearing in 2009, #amwriting has indeed become the distracted scribblers’ soapbox.

But with the hashtag’s growing popularity also comes more spam, and more self-promotion. Today #amwriting is where writers, a famously moody and solitudinous bunch, often make announcements best left unexpressed (editors exist for a reason!) and articulate sentiments so relentlessly positive that they suggest the announcer has never faced a blank page.

Here are the best #amwriting archetypes:

Motivational statements

Motivational statements (by famous people)

Humblebrags & regular brags

Tips & tricks

Distractions, pure and simple

Writers quoting themselves

Desperate thought experiments

Gratuitous mentions of coffee

Fellowship and positivity in the face of high odds of failure is fine. But #amwriting can give the impression that books are written by taking long walks in the woods, mainlining coffee, and reciting inspirational quotes when really the process is lonely and boring, and the hard parts can’t be shared.

After all, no one’s going to heart a tweet that admits: #RejectionsForYears #AmContemplatingDeath.

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