How do you know if you are a real writer?
Not long ago, I received this question from one of my subscribers, and it’s been turning over in my mind ever since. I’m unsure if she meant, how do you know if you have the ability/talent to write? Or how do you know if you are born to write?
I believe if you like to write, want to write, take the time to write, and make writing a part of your life, then you are a writer.
Whether you write short stories, novels, poems, articles, screenplays, children’s books, memoirs, or anything in between—you are a writer.
However, there are a lot of opinions out there on who may call themselves a Writer, and some of them are pretty harsh. For example, many believe that if you don’t write every day, aren’t published, don’t have fans, and aren’t making a living writing; then you can’t call yourself a writer. Some hard-hearted individuals might even say you must tick all four boxes to call yourself a writer.
Do I have to be published to be considered a writer?
You might write religiously every day, but if you aren’t published and aren’t making a living writing, you can’t call yourself a writer. Does that make any sense?
What if all your hard work led to a publishing deal, but you don’t have a multitude of fans, and your book deal isn’t supporting you? Does that mean you aren’t a writer?
Of course, reaching these levels of success with your writing—being published, earning an income, being recognized by your peers, and having fans— is nice, but it doesn’t define you as a writer.
Writing is what makes you a writer.
Writing is hard and can be lonely. It requires sitting down and finding your truth. Then, you have to find the right words and get them down on page … after page … after page. When you do that—you are a writer.
There are tests online where you can answer a series of questions to see if you are a “real writer,” and they have a very negative and discouraging slant. Please don’t put yourself through that. Steer clear of them and keep writing.
Want to know if you are a writer? Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you love to read?
- Are you constantly thinking about things you’d like to write about?
- Are you a generally curious person?
- Are you a fan of storytelling or a good storyteller yourself?
- Do you have experiences, thoughts, or ideas you want to share?
- When you do write, are you always looking for just the right word?
- You are happy to spend time alone.
- Have you been complimented on your writing?
- Have you kept a journal for years?
- Is it easier to express your feeling in writing than verbally?
- Do you have the desire to write that just won’t let go?
You certainly don’t need to be able to answer yes to all of these to be considered a writer. I’m a published author, writing coach, and writing workshop leader, and I haven’t journaled for years; I’m not constantly thinking about writing, and I’m a terrible oral storyteller, but I do call myself a writer.
If you answered yes to half of these questions, I suspect you may have a writer within—it’s just a matter of giving him/her/them a chance to shine.
Is writing a skill or a gift?
Do you read something well written and assume the writer was born gifted, or wonder how they became such a good writer?
You don’t have to be born a writer; you can learn to be a writer. Writing isn’t necessarily a talent; it’s a craft you can master with practice, just like anything else.
Skill or gift? It’s probably both, but how will you know if you don’t get started? Even “gifted” writers need to hone their skills. Although there may be the rare writer who sits down and writes a perfect first draft, I’ve yet to meet one. If you have a gift, it may take studying the craft and developing the skills to allow the gift to emerge, and conversely, with enough practice, you may become a skilled/gifted writer.
It’s never too late to start writing.
Maybe you’re not someone who’s been writing since you could hold a pencil in your chubby little hand or who has 100 journals in your closet. But maybe you have something to say and an urge to write that won’t go away.
It’s never too late to start writing. I didn’t start writing seriously until I went to graduate school in my early 40s. I know plenty of women who published their debut books in their 50s and 60s (myself included). I have a friend who received a six-figure advance from a major publishing house for her debut novel when she was in her 70s, has just sold her second novel at age 81, and is hard at work on her third novel.
Wherever you are on your writing journey—published, dreaming of being published, or content to write for yourself, I hope you will consider yourself a real writer.