Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing?
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:
- literascribe (Lorna Fergusson)
- The Creative Penn (Joanna Penn)
- Goins, Writer (Jeff Goins)
- Helping Writers Become Authors (K.M. Weiland)
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.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing?
The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
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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
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.
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
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… 🙂
Oh dear I am sorry you are not well. I have the opposite problem in that I am a full time carer for my husband who is very unwell and disabled now. I hardly have time to dress myself let alone write so I feel constantly frustrated. However I saved this post to make me feel better!
Now I feel better knowing that I am still the same creative person and no one can stop me thinking/imagining and creating in my head- even if it doesn’t make it to print!
Good luck with your health and keep planning that great novel!
Brenda, that must be terribly difficult — glad this could help encourage you about your writing at least. Sending warmest wishes and best hopes that things get a little easier for you.
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
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. 🙂
It seems I’m not the only one who appreciated this post. You’ve relieved my guilt. 🙂
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. 🙂
Thanks Fitri, I’m so glad this helped you. 🙂
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.
Thanks so much, Treathyl! I’m very much enjoying my work on DailyBlogTips. 🙂
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.
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
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…!
You have made me feel much better Ali. I’m always denying the possibility that I could be a writer – and yet, you make me feel like one! I have been writing off and on for years but like lots of other people who have posted, life takes hold sometimes! Is there a light at the end of the writer’s tunnel? I hope so – you certainly help me to believe so!
Oh, I’m so glad, Angela! You sound like a very normal writer … I think we all have periods when life gets in the way (I’ll reply to your other comment in a moment; I can see you’ve been through a very difficult year). Sending very best writerly wishes.