To borrow from Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that an eager writer in possession of a good notebook must be in want of more notebooks.”
As a writer myself, I find this to be indisputably true. No sooner have I added a pretty, leather-bound notebook to my shelf than another one catches my eye and, well, you know how it goes.
Unfortunately, despite my plethora of notebooks, notepads, fancy stationery, ballpoint pens, fountain pens, gel pens, dictionaries, thesauruses (thesaurii?), reference books AND more, I have a problem. My collection of Writer Things remains untouched. Notebooks are empty. Inkwells are full. Book spines are unbroken.
I have all of the tools of a writer, yet I don’t write. I introduce myself as a writer. Yet I don’t write. Does that mean I’m not a writer after all?
Perhaps you’ve heard of the term “Impostor Syndrome.” If you haven’t, it can be summarized as the feeling that you’re pretending to be something you aren’t, despite skill, talent, and love for an activity. At any moment, you feel as though you may be exposed as a fraud. This feeling is one that I’ve found to be extremely prevalent in the writing community, even among writers with published works (and one I often feel myself).
Blank pages and empty notebooks stare us in the face and gloat that we are Not Writers. Bad first drafts, silly spelling errors and whacky ideas make us rethink our talents. Bouts of writers’ block, hectic schedules, and life in general get in the way of the ideas in our head, yet we convince ourselves that we are not writers at all, rather than just being Very Busy People.
This phenomena also eats away at our pride in the activity. When people say to us “Oh, are you a writer?” we hasten to qualify ourselves as amateurs, hobbyists, dabblers, downplaying our love of the craft. “Oh, I just mess around a little bit…”
No matter how much validation we get from friends, family, and strangers on Twitter, the “proof” of the page is sometimes just too glaring to look away from, yet too daunting to actually make us write.
Needless to say, this feeling absolutely sucks. But what’s to be done? Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the question “what is a writer?” The official definition of “writer” (according to dictionary.com) varies but generally agrees that a writer is someone who is actively practicing the craft, or who has been published. I disagree with this definition. We can’t all write all the time, nor will we all be (or even want to be) published writers. Yet there’s no way an elite few get to use this title while others don’t.
Instead of trying to wrangle with specific or occasionally complex terminology to create my own definition (which will inevitably exclude someone), I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no right or wrong element of a person that makes them a Writer or Not a Writer. Rather, there are many elements that combine to create a whole, like a recipe takes separate ingredients and turns them into one single dish. Because I’m writing an blog post about what it is to be a writer, and because I’m very hungry while writing said blog post, I’ve come up with a mix-and-match three-ingredient “recipe”; if any three “ingredients” apply to you, congrats, you’re a writer!
- You love writing
- Okay, you have a love/hate relationship with writing
- You own a writing utensil of some variety (pen, pencil, laptop, voice recorder, feather quill, the blood of your enemies for some reason)
- You collect notebooks
- You don’t collect notebooks but appreciate a nice notebook
- Your feelings towards notebooks are irrelevant (love, hate, neutral, whatever) yet you keep getting them as gifts because people consider you to be a writer
- Any of the previous three things apply to pens as well
- You consider yourself to be a writer
- You’re not sure if you’re writer but you’ve at least thought “well, maybe”
- You write every day
- You think “who has time for that” so you write whenever you get the chance
- You haven’t written in a long time but have, indeed, written SOMETHING before (heck, even your name counts if you want it to)
- Whenever a BuzzFeed quiz asks you what your dream occupation is, you almost always think “being a writer sounds nice”
- The universe keeps sending you signs that you are, in fact, a writer (cue a cartoon-style montage of potential signs like pens falling out of your cereal box, notebooks lurking around every corner, your shower raining ink upon your head, etc.)
- You’re reading this blog post (here’s a freebie for you)
- At least one of the above applies to you (hey another freebie, only one more to go)
- Most importantly, you want to call yourself a writer
So, are you a writer yet? Don’t be modest. Of course you are. You always were.
Check out Rhiannon’s first minibook release Non-Prophet!
Author: Rhiannon Lotze
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Publisher: Mannison Press
Genre: Urban Sci-Fi/Family Drama
Buy: Amazon, Smashwords
Summary: Staring down the barrel of university, Logan Diaz faces a choice: choose a program that follows his passion for cooking, or one that will benefit humanity, which is in desperate need of assistance. When the choice becomes impossible, Logan hires a cut-rate “non-prophet” to give him a glimpse into his future. Unfortunately, the future is never exactly what one expects.