It’s not an easy process to become a writer. First, you have to realize that you can write. I don’t say that you can write well, and I don’t mean that you sit down and pound out an email. Anyone with the ability to put letters down on paper or type them onto a screen is a writer. EVERYONE is a writer.
What I mean by realizing you can write is that you have to get to the point where you say, even if it’s just to yourself, “I can write.”
This doesn’t mean that everyone else tells you that you’re a writer. This doesn’t mean you humbly threw an essay into a contest and got a runner’s up award, and it surprised you “because you didn’t really realize that you could write.” I mean that you have to have the conversation with yourself where you admit that you identify with writing in much the same way that watercolor artists identify with paint brushes: sometimes, you just want to pick up the pen (or brush) and write (or paint).
Contrary to popular belief, you are not a writer when other people tell you that you are. If I had believed what everyone else had told me, I would have started calling myself a writer when I was about 10 years old. If I had started calling myself a writer when I started writing, I could say that I’ve been a writer since I was about eight. On the other hand, I am not published and I don’t make money on my writing, so I am not a writer by most peoples’ standards.
I didn’t think you could call yourself a writer until you were good at it, which, to me, meant that you were published, but more than that, I didn’t think you could be a writer until everything you wrote was publishable.
Well, that’s just crap. Even the best writers write unpublishable shit. Basically, I was waiting for writing perfection before I called myself a writer, but perfectionism should not be an aim, because nobody is perfect and you’ll stop yourself before you get anywhere if that’s what you’re aiming for.
I recently read in a blog that it would be a good idea to write down 100 accomplishments that I’m proud of. It took me two days and thirty items before it occurred to me to write down that I was proud of the ability to write. Once I did, I was surprised that it had taken me so long, but I knew why: because I didn’t think I had done anything worth being proud of with my writing yet; I don’t have any published books and I don’t make money writing; what gave me the right to call myself a writer?
When you start a new job, you get to have a title, a title that someone else wrote for you based on your job description. We never question the right to give or accept that title, but that could be because we only consider a title as important if it’s tied to a job and it makes you money. But just because that’s the way it is doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be.
So I made a decision: I gave myself permission to call myself a writer. This isn’t because I think I am the best writer there is, or that someday I will be rich and famous because of my writing. I am calling myself a writer because it is a craft that I want to spend time on, because it makes me feel good about myself when I write; because I have something to say, and because I have the guts to say it.
When I was filling out the paperwork on the plane for the Mexican tourist visa, I wrote “writer” as my profession. I am identifying as a writer because that is what I want to be. I am a writer because you cannot be a writer if you don’t call yourself one; if you refuse to admit to your aspirations, your own refusal to give yourself the title will ultimately hold you back. I am a writer because I am willing to spend the time and energy to improve my craft. I am a writer because I do it every day. I am a writer, not because anyone else says I am, but because I say I am, and I’m the one who should know.
Love and writer kisses,