Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing?

by Ali on March 18, 2014

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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…

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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?

Of course.

(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?

Sure.

(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)!

But…

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.

 

{ 3 trackbacks }

Der Schreibende | Ich hab da mal was geschriebenDer Schreibende
March 23, 2014 at 8:57 am
Monday Must-Reads [03/24/14]
March 24, 2014 at 11:55 pm
17 Ways to Make the Most of Your Writing Time – Even When It’s Limited — Aliventures
April 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Martine March 18, 2014 at 12:18 pm

You are what you keep coming back to. I like that. It’s a good thought. Funny how people get so worked up about calling themselves a writer, as though there were some invisible court that passed judgement on what you call yourself when it’s all just in your mind.

Being a writer is more about who you are, not so much what exact task you’re doing at the moment. Writing involves writing, sure, but I feel it’s also much bigger than just that one activity.
Michael Martine’s last blog post ..10 Thoughts on the Practice of Writing Daily

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Ali March 18, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I think a lot of people have a whole court of invisible, internal critics passing judgement!

And I’m with you that being a writer isn’t just about putting words on the page — it’s a whole attitude and way of life.

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Cyn Rogalski March 18, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Thank you Ali.I needed this today. Chronic illness has stopped me from writing for a spell, & I was beating myself up over it. Thanks again.
Cyn Rogalski’s last blog post ..‘Twas The Day After Christmas-2013

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Ali March 18, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Oh Cyn, I’m so sorry to hear about the illness, and glad this post could help at least. I do hope you’ll be feeling much better soon, and that in the meantime, you’re getting plenty of rest. If you’re feeling well enough to read, that’s always a great way to fill your writers’ mind… :-)

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Marina Sofia March 19, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Gosh, how I needed to hear this… I’ve been feeling so guilty about not writing, despite the fact that I took most of January and February off for the purpose of writing (and spending time with family). I’ve written lots of book reviews, blog posts, poetry, but not done the third edit on my novel, which was what I really wanted to do. Nor started anything else new and creative. So I’ve been scolding myself to sleep every night… and getting even more blocked in the process.
Thanks for a gentler approach to it all.
Marina Sofia’s last blog post ..Celebrating the Colours of Spring

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Ali March 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm

It’s so easy to beat ourselves up … but sometimes, as writers, we really need the down-time to recharge our creative batteries! Hope you can ease back into the novel edits at a time that’s right for you. It sounds like you’ve written loads of great stuff in the meantime. :-)

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Tracy Campbell March 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Hi Ali,
It seems I’m not the only one who appreciated this post. You’ve relieved my guilt. :-)

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Ali March 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Hurrah! :)

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Fitri Susanti March 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Hello Ali,
I used to feel that since I am not as productive as I was before, I don’t deserve to call myself a writer.
Sometimes this thought and the fear of losing my writing ability make me feel the pain when I want to start writing again. Your incredible post has enlightened me. Now I can say, I am (still) a writer!
Thank you. :)

Reply

Ali March 28, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Thanks Fitri, I’m so glad this helped you. :-)

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Treathyl Fox March 31, 2014 at 10:15 pm

I call myself an accountant. I call myself a writer. I call myself a thinker. Since it’s about me, I prefer to be the one doing the name-calling cause I know what I can do better than anybody else does, whether I do it now or later. :)

Ms. Luke, I found this site because the link to it was shared over at Daily Blog Tips, where you are doing a fantastic job as Co-Editor!
Treathyl Fox’s last blog post ..Untouched Paris Apartment Discovered After 70 Years Includes painting worth $3.4 million.

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Ali April 2, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Thanks so much, Treathyl! I’m very much enjoying my work on DailyBlogTips. :-)

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Tom Southern April 5, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Ali, what a refreshing view of the “being a Writer” thinking!

Yes, it’s important to write if you want to be a writer. It’s equally important to keep your creative ideas and flow running by thinking. Letting your mind and imagination run through ideas or storylines is just as important.

Let them run along side each other.

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Ali April 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Thanks Tom!

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Raspal Seni April 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Hi Ali,

I agree, you’re still a writer even if you don’t write for a while. You may know I stopped posting on my blog too, since a while. Does that make me something else, instead of a writer/blogger? Of course not!

#3: I recently started writing poems. But I don’t think I can put them on my blog. So, wondering where can I put them. I seem to create one almost daily. Strange thing, isn’t it? Do I need to have a separate blog for them?

Thinking to put them on my blog at RaspalWrites but after moving my current blogging blog to another domain I already have. Would that be better?
Raspal Seni’s last blog post ..6 Common Blog Header Mistakes You Should Avoid

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Ali April 8, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Good question on the poems. If I were you, I might look for opportunities to get them published (e.g. competitions, magazines that print poetry). I know from a poet friend that it’s really tough to get much money or recognition from poetry, but many people find it extremely rewarding to write.

If you moved the blogging blog, it’d make sense to put them on Raspal Writes (you could use it as a home for all sorts of writing). But I wouldn’t suggest blending blogging advice and poetry…!

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