A House of Treasures

How does one become a writer?

Sitting in front of a 打字机 (dǎ zì jī), typewriter, gives you the feeling of being a veteran. After lighting a cigar, you feel even more like a writer. But finally you just grab a piece of 草稿纸 (cǎo gǎo zhǐ), scratch paper, on which to 起草构思 (qǐ cǎo gòu sī) draft ideas, before giving rein to your 创作 (chuàng zuò), creativity, and 写作 (xiě zuò), writing.

You’ve always dreamed of becoming a 作家 (zuò jiā), writer, or 笔者 (bǐ zhě), author – a person who holds a pen. This has been your dream since childhood, because you’ve been always told that 腹有诗书气自华 (fù yǒu shī shū qì zì huá), knowledge makes a gentlemen, and 读书破万卷,下笔如有神 (dú shū pò wàn juàn, xià bǐ rú yǒu shén), after poring over ten thousand volumes you can write like one inspired.

You plan to write 小说 (xiǎo shuō), novels, 自传 (zì zhuàn), autobiographies, 散文 (sǎn wén), prose, 诗集 (shī jí), poetry anthologies … all manner of 文学作品 (wén xué zuò pǐn), literary works. You even expect one day to publish your 全集 (quán jí), complete collection of literary works.

As you briskly press the Enter key, you imagine being deemed a 文人 (wén rén), man of letters, a 读书人 (dú shū rén), scholar, or a 知识分子 (zhī shi fèn zǐ), intellectual. Meanwhile, others might describe you as 一肚子墨水 (yí dù zi mò shuǐ), fairly learned.

You imagine being invited to deliver speeches, and telling audiences with a serious air 读书千遍,其义自见 (dú shū qiān biàn, qí yì zì xiàn), that the meaning of a book is understood naturally after reading it a thousand times. You also tell the audiences that literature 包罗万象 (bāo luó wàn xiàng), embraces everything under the sun. You advise them 熟读而静思 (shú dú ér jìng sī), to read a book thoroughly and to think about it deeply. Meanwhile, your behavior is always 温文尔雅 (wēn wén ěr yǎ), gentle and cultivated. Some of you tend to use 书面语 (shū miàn yǔ), literary language, as opposed to colloquial language and so be considered as having 文采 (wén cǎi), talent in literature. You are also versed in the use of 成语 (chéng yǔ), idioms, and like to be called 大文豪 (dà wén háo), a great writer.

To enrich your vintage style, you have bought some ancient Chinese books and you give your 书房 (shū fáng), study, the poetic name 松风轩 (sōng fēng xuān), a pavilion where you can hear the breeze rustling the pine trees. It is traditional for ancient Chinese scholars to give their studies gracious names. Moreover, you like writing the Chinese character 书 (shū), book, in its traditional form 书, because this shows that you are well-educated. In fact, 书 also refers to 写 (xiě), write, as in the phrase 书写 (shū xiě), write. Books can be compared with wealth. This perception is reflected in the phrase 书中自有黄金屋 (shū zhōng zì yǒu huáng jīn wū), books contain treasure. Reading offers precious knowledge and enriches your spiritual world, and is at the foundation of a person’s promotion to a high rank, lofty position and great wealth. In ancient China, scholars had the chance of becoming government officials solely by passing the imperial examinations. There were also people who believed that books are 心灵鸡汤 (xīn líng jī tāng), chicken soup for the soul. Either way, you know that the effect of reading should be 烂熟于心 (làn shú yú xīn), of knowing the book thoroughly enough, to gain 灵感 (líng gǎn), inspiration, from it.

Nevertheless, you worry you might turn into a 书呆子 (shū dāi zi), nerd. Mencius, the great philosopher of ancient China, once said 尽信书则不如无书 (jìn xìn shū zé bù rú wú shū), we should rather be short of books than believe all that they say.

Let’s return to the topic of writing. If your work is impressive, 出版社 (chū bǎn shè), publishing houses, will contact you asking to 出书 (chū shū), publish your work. You’ll then work with a 编辑 (biān jí), editor, who might make some 批注 (pī zhù), comments, and 修改 (xiū gǎi), modifications. The book is ready to 发行 (fā xíng), distribute, when it meets the publishing requirements.

One day, you find you 受不了 (shòu bù liǎo), cannot bear it anymore. Your 自尊心 (zì zūn xīn), self-esteem, as a writer, is frustrated. You abandon your typewriter and simultaneously decide to launch a 博客 (bó kè), blog, and venture into the field of 网络文学 (wǎng luò wén xué), online literature, to become a 网络作家 (wǎng luò zuò jiā), online writer, and to publish 电子书 (diàn zǐ shū), e-books. Though not equal to a paper book, at least you’ve got some readers, and, you are free!