Am I a writer? This is a question I have heard asked so many times before. I've seen it posted on writers forums. Friends of mine who love writing have asked it. Even I find myself asking this very question. It seems to be a question posed among all writers—well maybe not established writers like Stephen King, or Dean Koontz, but by many of those who aspire to write.
So when do you get past that point of asking this question? What do you have to do to actually consider yourself a writer? I’m sure it's different for everyone. For some, the mere act of doing is enough—acting on that inherent need to tell a story—whether in the form of a poem or a short story or a book. I call these the “Just do it!” writers, and man, they got it going on! For others, it’s all about getting published. Publication used to be the definer for me, but now I think having people look forward to reading something I have written would be a step in the right direction.
You don’t have to be published to be a writer, but getting your priorities straight will put you on the right path. First thing’s first: Fear not. Do not fear success or failure, or what others will think of your writing. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said in a famous inaugural speech, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Fear is the great immobilizer and if we sit frozen in our seats, we will never meet our goals.
Secondly, read whatever you can get your hands on that will help you to be a better writer. Writing resources are everywhere. You can go to your local library and check out all sorts of books. On Writing Well by William Zinsser and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott are just a couple of my personal favorites. There are also many websites out there that offer writing prompts, list contests, and have writer’s forums you can join to talk with fellow writers—who probably feel have the same feelings as you. My personal favorite is the Writer’s Digest website.
Read books that have nothing to do with writing. Every time you read a piece of literature—whether it’s an essay or a book—you are gleaning something important from it that will make you a better writer. It might be an idea or a certain style, or maybe it will change your entire opinion on something. Maybe it won’t, but you will at least have a new viewpoint that improves your writing in some way.
Finally, if you want to be a writer, you must consider yourself as such and write—like those in the “Just do it!” category. Tell your story. Write your poem. Express yourself with words however you like. Set goals then strive toward them. Publication does not matter, nor do accolades from your peers. What really matters is how you feel when you read the words you put to paper.
Now ask yourself, Am I a writer? If you say you are and you are taking the necessary steps to propel yourself toward your writing goals, then as sure as the sun rises every morning you are a writer.