Monday, March 14, 2011

What makes a writer?

I am taking time today to reflect on what makes a writer.  “WRITER” Even the word sounds powerful.  When is it appropriate to claim this title?  Can you call yourself a writer only after you have become published?  Is the name connected to the ability to write?  Can you call yourself a writer even if you just have the desire to write? 
I used to be wishy-washy on the issue.  In public, I would never call myself a writer.  It sounded too pretentious.  In private, hanging around my friends, was another matter entirely. I would run my mouth—I was a writer.  It didn’t matter that I hadn’t written a story in over a year.  I had the desire to write and when I did do it, I was pretty good at it.  In my eyes, that should have been enough to call myself a writer.
But… I was wrong!  It wasn’t enough.  You have to put in the work to claim the title. 
I realized this one night when I was with my husband.  We were talking about writing.  I said I wanted to a published author.  My husband remarked, “No, you don’t.  If you wanted to write, you would be doing it.” 
Needless to say, that was the kick I needed.  The next day I was at the computer, typing up a story.  The day after that, I started submitting my older short stories to magazines.  Four months later, I was scheduled for publication. 
I understand that it’s not always that easy.  Life gets in the way.  We get sick, go to college, have kids, take care of grandparents and parents, work 60+ hours a week and have all other sorts of distractions.  I know this because I’ve lived it!  I have three kids, work overtime and earned a masters degree.  I know there is only 24 hours in the day.  But the important thing is to decide.  Am I a writer?  If you are, you should take the time to write.  Correction: you must take the time to write.  It’s not so much about publication.  It’s about words on paper. 
So now, I have a much stronger identity as a writer.  I can say it to friends, colleagues, job applications and strangers: I am a writer.  I have no qualms about saying it because I put in the effort to be one.  I insist on doing 1,000 words a day.  It is my profession (well, one of them) and I make it a top priority.  I lay down words, do the market research, and send out the submissions.  My conclusion is I don’t believe you can call yourself a writer unless you actually produce sweat and tears to do it.   My friend Maria has a painting over her desk that says, “Writers Write.”  I couldn’t say it better myself. 

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