Am I a Writer?

Back in the days when most of my creativity was channeled through making jewelry and keeping toddlers entertained, I came across metal tips for fountain pens. They had belonged to my grandma, and I fell in love with the charm of them. (That’s probably why those fancy tips are so often included in my blog post images.) I began decorating them with beads to make pendants. Great! I thought to myself, Writers will love to wear these. I made one for myself too, but often felt an inner conflict when I considered wearing it. Do I deserve to wear this? Am I really a writer? I consoled myself that it was pretty and it was from Grandma, so I wore it anyway. Once, a fellow graduate student admired it, and I brought her one the next class period. I saw the look in her eyes: Do I deserve to wear this? Am I really a writer?

This identity, more than most I’ve experienced myself, can be troubling. I love to write, but can I call myself a writer? What are the qualifications to be able to tell people that I am, in fact, a writer? Is there a word count? a minimum tally of hours I should write each week? a number of pieces I need to publish? Will people just roll their eyes as if I’m still living a childhood dream when I’m actually just jotting down poems into a notebook? (Pssst. Keep those notebooks, especially when you’re starting out. You might regret losing some of your words someday.)

My husband once shook me from this endless speculation by saying, “Who cares? Just write. Don’t worry about the title of writer itself. Just do it.”

I laughed at myself and suddenly felt free. I knew, of course, the mantra “writers write.” If I write, I’m a writer. Not that the title really matters too much anyway.

And you know what? Years later, the word counts and the hours came along with the practice of simply writing. Least important and not as guaranteed, even some publications came along as well. And even if I’ve published my last piece, I’ll continue to write. Because that’s what I do.

Are you a writer? If you write, yes. You are a writer. But don’t worry about the title so much. “Just write.”

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