I was sitting with my daughter on her bed the other night, when she asked, “Mom, can I become a writer?”
The question, in a way, caught me off guard. Mainly, just because I wasn’t sure how to answer it at first. I don’t believe there’s a magic ink pen that comes down and just dubbs you as one. When do actually consider yourself a writer anyways? Is it when you first put your pen to the page, or tap the first word on the screen? Is it when your published? Or when you become successful and you can quit your other job to do it full time? Does that make you a writer?
I believe every writer on the planet has asked themselves that same question at least once, if not, several times. What am I a REAL writer?
But the answer is simple.
If you can write, if you can put words to paper, you are a writer. You never need anyone else to tell you that you’re a writer.
You ARE a writer now.
This is the hardest lesson for any writer to learn.
Fall in love with great stories, with the stories you can’t put down. Fall in love with language, with the poems and songs that make your heart soar. Fall in love with the imagery that sticks in your imagination. Read those stories and poems. Read them again and again. And always remember, the main thing every writer needs to know: you’re a writer now.”
I think this is true of most of us, me included, at times. We think “writer” is a title bestowed on us in the distant future, like knighthood. One day, when we’re old and have gray hair sprouting on our head, Sean Connery will appear at our door, asking us to kneel. Then he will tap us on the shoulder with a Claymore and say, “Arise, good sir. Arise good lady.”
We look to others to name us as writers.
Are we any good? Do we have a big fan base on social media? Are we published, famous, bestselling? We believe when we arrive at one of these landmark stops, we will be a bonafide writer. Writing becomes a destination that is either filled with applause at the end, or it’s nothing at all.
However, as long as we look to others for approval, we will never find our voice.
Even worse, as long as we look to be popular, we may write like someone (or everyone) else. Our voice becomes an echo of an original voice. But echoes have diminishing returns. They become weaker and softer with each reverberation.
I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You’re looking outside and that’s what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you. No one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.
This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life must become a sign and witness to this impulse.
The writer who writes out of a silent inner mandate, of the whispering voice that says “I must” needs approval from no one. This writer understands his writing may or may not make him popular. It probably won’t make him famous.
It may not even get published.
While popularity is a fine thing, it is never the beginning destination.
Writing is reaching deep into your soul, and being brave enough to put those words on paper.
No one else can say it like you can. No one. So stop waiting for Sean Connery to show up at your door and tell you that you’re a writer. Open your computer, pick up your pen or pencil and begin.
You’re a writer.
Happy Writing Ya’ll!