You are only a writer if…

I’m very tired of hearing the words “you are only a writer if”.

I’ve been a writer since I was 14, which is when I started writing almost every single day- a habit that lasted up until I graduated from university. Writing was my outlet, was my way of connecting with people in a way that I couldn’t seem to in reality. Every day, I wrote for hours. My weekends often involved writing from the moment I got up till the moment I went to bed. As a result, I’ve put in my 10,000 hours, and then some.

I’m not claiming to be good, I’ve just had a lot of practice. I’ve also read a lot of advice.

As with anything people are passionate about, whether it be writing, or fitness, or toddler beauty pageants, there will be many people who insist there is only one way to do things. You can only be a top CEO if you follow all of these tips. You can only be a good mom if you do all of these things with Pinterest-perfect results. If you are a doctor, or a CIA agent, or a nuclear physicist, there may only be one right way to do things. If you are a writer, and you believe there is only one way to write, you are wrong.

The only qualification required to be a writer is that you write things. If you don’t write things, either you want to be a writer, or have been a writer, but you can’t currently be a writer if you don’t write things. That is the only distinction.

Many people will tell you that if you don’t write every single day (including birthdays, holidays, and days when you are so hungover opening your eyes hurts), you are not a writer. People will tell you that you have to write a certain number of words or pages, meeting some arbitrary daily quota. Other people will tell you that your work has to be a certain length, or can only be in certain genres, or that you have to be professionally published to be a real writer.

If you dig deep enough, you will find that every successful (and unsuccessful) writer has a process that works for them, and may or may not fit any of the above criteria. I know a children’s fiction author who writes five pages a day, but only five days a week. I know writers who write a few hundred words every day, before they’ve had their morning coffee. I am the kind of writer who writes a lot a few times a week, but certainly not every day, and I pay no attention to my number of pages. All of these people are still writers, with varying degrees of success.

The only way you can figure out what kind of rhythm works for you is to try them all. Be consistent with whatever you do, even if it is hard. Find what allows you to be the kind of writer you want to be, not what allows you to meet some stranger’s expectations of the kind of writer all writers should be.

The only thing you could do to not be a writer is not to write. The rest is up to you.