A couple of weeks ago, I sent out a newsletter titled – like this post – “Can you call yourself a writer if you’re not currently writing?”
It got a great response … and I realised I’d hit on a subject that quite a few writers are concerned about.
So if you missed it:
1. Make sure you get future newsletters by signing up here.
2. Read on for the extended version…
Image from Flickr by Pink Sherbet Photography
I’ve always been told – and I’ve probably told a fair few writers – that to be a writer, all you need to do is write.
You don’t need to be a full-time writer, or a paid writer, or a published writer.
You just need to write.
But … what if you’re not writing?
Last year, when Kitty was born, I had a couple of months where I did virtually no writing. I wasn’t working on my novel, and I wasn’t writing for clients – I was busy getting to grips with being a mum.
Does that mean I stopped being a writer?
Let’s dig into this a bit.
What Makes a Writer a Writer?
You’re writing a thousand words every day on your novel.
Are you a writer?
(Heck, at that rate, you might well be a professional, full-time writer.)
Take it down a notch.
You’re writing two thousand words every weekend on your novel … and squeezing in a few extra words when you get time during the week.
Are you a writer?
(Maybe you’ve got a full-time day job, or you’re a full-time parent. But you’re still a writer.)
Take it down another notch.
You’re starting to feel a bit stale. You go away for a week in the countryside, without your laptop. For seven days, you don’t write a single word.
Are you still a writer?
Sure. Writers are allowed holidays (really)!
What if you take three months off from writing … or three years?
Are you still a writer?
Yes. You’re Still a Writer
Being a writer is not simply about putting words on a page. After all, many people write as part of their job (emails, at least) and they wouldn’t necessarily think of themselves as “writers”.
If you’re a writer – if writing fulfills you, if you don’t feel complete without it – then taking a break doesn’t mean you stop being a writer.
If you’ve taken weeks or months (even years) away from writing in the past, and you’ve found your way back to it, you’re a writer.
And you don’t need me to tell you that.
Writing’s in your heart, in your blood, in your breath. Writing’s part of who you are. Maybe it’s a relatively new part – but more likely, it’s been part of you for years.
(Even if you were denying it. Even if you were afraid to write.)
Is it Time to Come Back to Writing?
If you’re on holiday from writing, that’s okay.
Maybe life is just too busy or too stressful or too full right now.
Don’t force yourself to write.
Don’t beat yourself up for not writing.
You’re still a writer, and you’ll come back when you’re ready.
If you feel like you are ready, though – that you do want to come back, but you can’t quite find the path – here’s how you might begin.
Step #1: Dip your toes back into the writing world.
Read your favourite writing blogs.
Not got any? Try some of my favourites:
Step #2: Make a writing appointment.
Get away from home or work. Give yourself at least an hour, preferably more, and write.
You could book a writing class locally, or simply block out a couple of hours in your diary.
Don’t know where to start?
Write about something you overhear. Tackle a writing prompt or writing exercise. Choose an everyday object – a pen, a coffee cup, a mobile phone – and use it to inspire a blog post or a pice of flash fiction or a poem.
Step #3: Commit to a new project.
Stay tuned … I’ve got a new resource coming on this.
Find something you really want to write.
Maybe it’s a novel you’ve been dreaming about for years.
Maybe it’s a magazine article on a topic that’s close to your heart.
Maybe it’s a memoir or poetry or fanfiction … or anything that captures your thoughts and makes your heart leap.
You don’t have to work on it every day. You don’t have to finish it within a year. There’s no rush.
Finishing feels great. But the moment when you sit back and look at your finished story / article / book is just that – a moment.
What matters, what makes you come alive, is the journey. The writing.