How to tell if you are a writer, or not

I’ve seen a number of debates and blog posts and flow charts on the internet over the last few months about how to tell if you are a “real” writer or not. This is something people struggle a lot with when it comes to their creative identity.

The bottom line of these conversations is this: Writers write. If you’re a writer, you’re writing. And, if you’re paid to write, you’re a professional writer.

As a general rule, I agree with these notions.

However!

And this is a big however: I believe these ideas are doing a grave disservice to people who WANT to write but haven’t found their way to it yet. And to the writers who have written — but for whatever the reason — aren’t writing right now.

It’s pretty discouraging.

As a coach, I hate to see discouragement happening out there in the world.

I hate to think of all the people NOT writing right now because they’ve bought into this notion that since they’re not writing YET, they must not be writers — at least not in the core sense of who they are and who they can become.

Even one of my writing idols, Joss Whedon, practically undid me when he said, “You either have to write or you shouldn’t be writing.” Since I wasn’t writing “enough” at the time, I thought, “Wait, does this mean I’m not a writer? Or that I can’t be a writer?

So there are all these intense messages out there in the world telling you that you’re not a writer if you’re not writing. And okay, again, I see the point.

But, what if:

  • You have a massive amount of fear and resistance about writing, even though you’ve always dreamed about writing, and you don’t know how to deal with it.
  • You’re stuck with your project and you don’t know where to go next.
  • You’re blocked, you can’t pick a project to focus on, or you’re paralyzed by performance anxiety or perfectionism.
  • You’ve just suffered a major loss of a loved one or gone through a horrific breakup and you’re in the throes of grief, and you can’t find your way back to the page.
  • You’re caught up in the myths about writing (like not having enough time or money so you think you can’t write).
  • You haven’t yet built your writing habit skills, and you’re writing irregularly or inconsistently at best.
  • You’ve bought into the belief that you have to be naturally talented to be a writer so you aren’t even giving yourself a chance.
  • You believe you need more training or skills before you can write.

In my opinion, you are still a writer — at your core — even under these conditions. Yes, a writer who needs support, discipline, and structure to help get back on track. But still a writer. It means you are a writer who needs a jump start, or maybe a little coaxing to come out of your cocoon and into the world.

The thing is, if you’re called to write, you must write. And if you’re buying into this story, “I guess I’m not a writer because I’m not writing”, you will NEVER write. That’s not okay with me. I believe that our souls speak to us about what we are meant to be doing — they know WHO WE ARE at a deep level. And so even if you haven’t CLAIMED that dream yet, it’s still yours for the taking.

So let’s help you claim that dream and start writing. It’s your soul calling to you, after all.

Thanks for reading!

I always love to hear what you think in the comments.

A quick heads up that if you want a jump start to get you writing, I’d love to help. My Writing Reboot sessions are just the ticket. But don’t get one now because they’ll be in my annual birthday sale this weekend at a ridiculous savings.

Or, you might also be interested in my Writer’s Circle to you help build a regular habit and get the support of other writers to keep on writing. The last day to register is tomorrow, Wednesday, November 27. We’d love to have you join us.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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Comments

  1. I think taking the desire to write seriously makes one a writer. However, there are degrees of professionalism. I wince when someone claims to be a writer yet fails to respect simple things like spelling and grammar. There are so many tools to combat unnecessary mistakes that anyone making an honest effort can achieve a level of proficiency. Respect the craft and then do the work. And remember it’s okay to ask for help.

  2. Mary Montanye says:

    Such an important topic, Jenna. And a timely reminder to me that the inner drive to write means it is important enough to make the time and space to do it.

  3. This was such a compassionate and encouraging article that I WANT to start writing again.
    Thank you!

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