You Are Not A Writer
And What it Takes to Become One
“I (Used to) Write”
I started writing stories right out of Kindergarten. Dollar Store composition notebooks were often tucked under my arm, every page scribbled with red and blue and green ink from those multi-tipped click pens. As I got older, I picked up some writing tech to streamline my process. When not typing away on my electric typewriter, I was saving each individual story world on separate floppy drives on my mom’s computer, leaving a stack in the corner of the desk. By 11 years old, I had started writing 150 page stories in a week’s time. Eventually my typewriter burned out, but I was able to get a cheap used laptop to continue my work.
What I’m saying is that I was always writing during every waking moment. Even in the middle of class. I knew, from the very start, that I was going to be a writer. In my young mind, there was nothing else I could be!
A lot of terrible things happened to my family during middle and high school, and writing fell off my active hobby list in favor of watching YouTube and playing video games. But whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be, I would tell them “a writer, of course.” I may not have been writing, but I was still going to be a writer.
Days turned into weeks, months into years. Eventually I couldn’t remember a time where I was consistently writing. I got through college with one creative writing class that I barely passed, hating every minute of it. And then I didn’t write anymore.
I still told people I was a writer, or I was going to be, or I was coming up with a new story that would happen…eventually.
But when I told them I was a writer, I now felt guilty for saying it.
The “One Simple Trick” to Being a Writer
Really writing takes a lot of work, more than anyone who doesn’t write could assume just by reading. We can all put words down on a page, but to gather them together in an interesting and meaningful way is a practiced, studied craft that takes effort and a bit of experience. Experience comes from writing, usually poorly at first. But you write consistently, you read good writers, and eventually you become one yourself. Or so you hope.
The culture we’ve brewed online is one of consumption. We read green-text stories, memes, Tumblr arguments…
For us writer-types, we consume writing. Usually about how to write better or how to get published. We read page after page, article after article, buying book after book on writing practices we ought to adopt. We devour stories to get a taste of other voices. Our libraries are full of more books than we could write in our whole lives even if we wrote one a month until we died.
For many writers I know, including myself, reading about how to write better took over my actual writing time. I let it slide because “I’m learning to be a better writer.” If I did write, I felt that it didn’t stack up against the maxims and teachings and quickly gave up, knowing I simply needed more study to get better, and then I’d be able to write correctly.
Instead of writing, I was making excuses.
Imagine reading an entire cookbook full of amazing, five-star recipes, yet you never make a single meal. There is no way that you could call yourself a cook after just reading. You need to make those recipes to become a real chef, testing and failing before you might get the hang of it. Even after reading the recipes, you overcook your eggs, burn your casserole, royally miss the cool saucepan flip you’ve been trying to get the hang of. The book doesn’t tell you things that can only come with practice, just the steps and a few tips to get you going. You must practice in order to become. You must do to earn the title.
In the end, all the studying in the world doesn’t make you a writer.
Write. You aren’t a writer unless you do.