Inside the Writing Life: Am I A Writer?

Do you write? Congratulations, you’re a Writer! It’s really that simple. Now, becoming a PUBLISHED writer is harder. I was a freelance writer for years (magazines, newspapers and radio), and now that I’m transitioning to fiction, it’s really no easier. The querying process can be brutal on your ego, and for some reason one negative comment often outweighs a hundred positive ones. But…

none of this has anything to do with whether or not you’re a Writer
(and if you are, put that big capital W at the start of it. You earn that W over and over). Any Writer has questioned whether or not s/he’s even a small-w-writer, let alone a Writer. That you care enough about the quality of what you write to have doubts earns you that capital W, so long as you don’t let your fears stop you and you actually write.

Don’t want to publish a book but you like to write? Write, and you’re a Writer, whether you publish or not. Self-published? Writer! Taking a break, whether it’s a day, a week, or a month (life can be hard, let’s face it), but you’re thinking about writing and the minute you can get half an hour of your own, you’re there, putting pen to paper or fingers on keyboard or whatever your method is? Writer!

Enjoy that part of it. Enjoy being one with every human being who has contributed to that precious thing, human literacy. Enjoy the fact that there is less of a difference between you and Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Stephen King, or any successful writer you admire than there is between you and anyone who hasn’t earned that big W. You’re members of the same club.

If you dream of writing but haven’t yet started, start. Earn that big W. No matter how awful (and trust me, any Writer worth mentioning has cranked out some really smelly junk while learning the craft, it’s inevitable), the moment you start, you earn your W. The only thing that might cause it to tarnish or fall off is if you stop. So long as you’re writing, you’re a Writer.

If you yearn to be published, to add “Author” to your shiny Writer badge, do so. Online for free, self-published, or, if you have the stamina and determination, chase that “traditional publishing” big A. But no matter how you get it, it will never erase the importance of that big W, so keep that W shiny.

And if you’re doubting yourself because the people in your life aren’t supportive, repeat after me, “Phooey! They don’t understand.” They don’t. Maybe they’ve chosen not to pursue their dreams, or to honor their talents, or they don’t appreciate the music and beauty of well-crafted words, or whatever, but they don’t hear the siren call. You can’t make them hear it, and you may not be able to make them understand, none of which drains even a teaspoon of importance from that beautiful, shiny, big W.

What polishes your W and keeps it shiny? Writing, of course — if all you can come up with is 30 minutes a day, 30 beats zero, go for it! Editing really polishes that W. I’m great at editing the work of others, but only mediocre at editing my own, so I rely on the help of people who see my work more clearly than I do (since I’m standing so close), but learning to be as objective as you can about your own work and make it better makes your W glow. Plotting, research, all can polish your W (but won’t earn it unless you use it to write).

Earn that W. Keep it polished. Add to it whatever you wish (in my case, I felt as though when I’d been paid to write for magazines, newspapers and radio, I’d earned a special badge, like for Girl Scouts, and it’s sewn on my mental sash). Enjoy it. You earned it. Give yourself the credit you deserve. Going after your dreams takes some courage and effort in a world that doesn’t respect most dreams or dreamers. Wear your W with pride.

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