In the new book is a character known as “Real Deal”; I won’t use this space to talk about why. But the name made me think.

The thought didn’t lead me to question myself (self-doubt is not what this post is about), but rather to consider questions that I have no intention of answering here.

On the internet and on bookstore shelves are hundreds—thousands—of writers, a population possessing almost infinitely varying degrees of ability. Some of those writers are skilled; some, breathtakingly so. Some are…enthusiasts only. Some have publishers. Some have little more than hope. All have da love of da craft.

Who is touched by starlight? Whose presence in the public eye is a gift of self-deceit?

How does one know in which camp one belongs?

One might argue, should argue, that the exercise is enough; that the love of writing should be the ticket that permits us to call ourselves writers. Yet, is that true?

Would we sit through the performance of an opera singer who sang abominably? Or an actor who could not act? What is the minimum requirement for an artist of any sort to request the attention of an audience? And who gets to decide what that requirement is? Will the Internet be the leg up for a climbing talent? Or will the waters muddy with all the folks dawdling around down there?

One might suggest that quality, like cream, rises; that the wheat will emerge from the chaff. I wonder whether either of those suggestions is true.

Instead, let’s ask this: What is the substance of the Divine spark? We believe that we know it when we see it…but how do we know? What is the felicitous turn of phrase, the compelling rhythm, the mad-crazy fire that tells us we are reading the work of someone special? What quality of a work gives us the finding of ourselves? What switch does that recognition throw in our heads?

That’s your assignment for the day…to consider how you know the real-deal when you see it.

My answer? I don’t know. Just askin’.