What a title that would be to have.
To me, it has prestige, pride, wisdom, wonder.
It elicits a sense of magic, another world, a highly-crafted skill.
“I am a writer’.
What a thing that would be to say. With confidence, with pride.
It is a title I do not yet feel I deserve.
“Why not?” I hear you cry.
I could call myself a writer. I can call myself what I want really.
But I just couldn’t.
I am not there yet. I have not earned that moniker.
So what are the criteria for classing yourself as a writer?
To have written a book?
To have had your writing published?
To have a regular writing habit?
To write for paid clients?
Writing to be the main method of income?
To be formally trained or qualified in creative writing?
Most of these are actually true for me. Or at least in progress. But still, none of them seem to provide the answer.
There are also some huge misbeliefs I have carried in my head for years. To be a writer you:
- have to use big words, to preferably have swallowed a thesaurus
- have to know everything about grammar
- know the rules (what rules)?
So I asked others and they have all said the same… “if you write, you’re a writer”.
It doesn’t matter what you write, or where it shares the light of day. If it sees the light of day.
If you write, you are a writer.
Also, you don’t have to be getting paid for the writing. The need to write may be an urge you cannot contain. A stream of words that you need to pour onto the page, without reason, without judgement, without censorship. You might not even understand why the need is there. But the act of writing is cathartic. It releases your mind, provides an outlet for your random wandering mind, frees you from your worries, and the thoughts that keep you awake.
“I think there are career writers and hobby writers. There are writers who write for the pure art of it and writers who write to teach. Writers who write to heal and writers who write to hurt.
There are morning page writers, journal keepers, and all kinds of note takers.”
Shaunta Grimes, Use Your Notebook to Make a Plan for the Kind of Writer You are Right Now
You are a designer, not a writer
My ‘frenemy’ — the imposter monster — combined with the usual lack of confidence and my roots in design all tell me I am a designer, not a writer. And it is easier to quantify with the amount of qualifications and experience I have in the design.
But isn’t a writer a designer of sorts? They just design with words rather than pretty pictures. They paint pictures in your mind, explore new universes, draw characters, provide the narrative to another time and dimension.
It is like when someone says to me “You’re the expert” and asks for an opinion. Oh, no pressure then I think, as I wither and die inside. Crawl back into my hole. Resign myself to never showing my face again. I am an expert in nothing, except falling over. I class writer on the same highly esteemed layer as expert.
I suppose I see calling myself a writer being like people who call themselves a ‘designer’ because they have tinkered in Photoshop, or worse, used clip art and PowerPoint to design a crap logo for their uncle Tony’s taxi firm. Or think they are an interior designer because they redecorated their living room. You are not a designer just because you once drew a nice picture of a flamingo.
I don’t want to be considered the equivalent in the writing world. The one that, try though she may, is just a wannabe. The deluded, inexperienced ‘writer’ giving the industry a bad name, just because she writes some blogs and elearning, and is attempting a book.
Maybe I should test the middle ground and say I am a ‘designer and writer’. That might cause a few less palpitations.
Where has the fear come from?
Why do I hold writers in such high regard? Why is the term so intimidating for me?
Because I am aware of what it takes to become a writer; the craft involved, the persistence, the passion and the unyielding determination.
Writers are people I admire, people that I would love to emulate.
Many amazing writers often get overlooked. Are never published. Have manuscripts discovered long after their deaths.
I have also always grouped writer with author – something I dream of being. One day.
But (and this is a big but and a game changer for me) I have discovered some amazing writers outside of amazing authorship. In unexpected places. They are small business owners, copywriters, bloggers. Writers who share their heart, soul and humour. For whom writing looks effortless, though in reality is often anything but.
I thought to be a good writer you had to emulate the greats. Now I see it is about having your own voice. Portraying you. Your values, beliefs, passions. Being great in your own way.
I have discovered writers who can craft blogs which reach into my soul and flip it upside down. Every week. Here’s looking at you Gem.
Writers who write with such personality you cannot help but be engaged by them, and their mum anecdotes, like Jo Watson.
And there are many more out there. It isn’t just about learning from the bestselling authors.
You have to find those who ignite something in you personally. Who you can learn from, whose brains you can pick, and whose personality matches your values.
Maybe I have always been a writer
Or maybe I have finally found the route I should always have taken, and my explorations now are about figuring out what kind of writer I am.
I write daily in my job, mostly for e-learning – something not necessarily classed as ‘writing’ in the same sense as novels, short stories, even blog writing.I craft characters, create a flow to the content, tell a story, immerse the learner in scenarios, and create relatable content. Isn’t that the type of things a writer does?
Life experience led me to this point. And life experience is what is making me a writer. I could not have one without the other.
So let’s look at the proof
In a last ditch effort to convince myself, let’s look at the proof that I am a writer (of some sort):
- I have had 3 journal articles published
- I complete a daily writing exercise (…most days)
- I am writing 2 books and have others in the planning
- I have recently completed the Ignition writing accountability project to start one book off
- I have a weekly blogging habit and am part of the #write52 accountability group
- If nothing else, I am sat here writing right now!
Every day my thoughts are consumed by topics I could write about, ideas for blogs, great book titles, and daft characters I would like to write about. I constantly jiggle my diary to ensure I can fit more writing in, plus self-development in copywriting and writing.
For now, I shall continue to call myself a ‘writer under construction’. A ‘writer in progress’.
And that is good enough for me.
One day I will be a writer fully fledged.
And I’ll state “A writer? That’s me!”