Am I a writer?

Posted February 14, 2016 by Lory in discussions / 26 Comments

DiscussionNEW

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When I was young, that meant writing the kind of three-decker high fantasy novels that I loved. I couldn’t think of any higher ambition than giving others the pleasure these books had given me.

Fast forward through high school and college, and my attempts at fiction writing stutter to a halt. My stories don’t feel real to me, and if they don’t convince me, they certainly won’t engage anyone else. I hear from many fiction writers that writing is something you do because you have to — you have an overwhelming drive to carry on through the difficulties, as well as a sense of the reality of your fictional world. I don’t have this, and a vague wish is not enough.

I still love writing, though. I love writing essays for my classes; to me it’s a creative process, a path of discovery, not a form of drudgery. Later on I enjoy writing as part of my job doing publicity for a nonprofit organization. I even like writing fundraising letters. With each new assignment, the challenge is to find the right thoughts and how they they can be linked together and clothed with words in the most effective way, to express their unique essence to the reader.

But none of this makes me a “writer” in the way I wanted to be growing up. That means being accepted by a big publishing house and having thousands of copies of my work printed and read. To me, it’s more about connecting with a wide audience than about making lots of money (though that wouldn’t be bad). But what I write is not the kind of thing that gets published in that way.

I do publish a couple of pieces. I’ll never forget the thrill when I have an essay accepted by Interweave Knits, and shortly thereafter another one is taken by Parabola. A few more appear in online journals. It’s hard to fit this kind of writing and searching for appropriate publishing venues into my life, though. I try a few more times but then let it go.

A few years later, I start this blog without much thought of why I’m doing it. In my browsing I come across a few book blogs, and think “That looks like fun.” After I do a few posts and the readership of thousands doesn’t instantly materialize, I get discouraged. I almost quit. But then I become fascinated by the challenge of building an audience, making connections, expressing my personal thoughts in a way that resonates with others.

Now, after two years, I think I know why I’m doing this. I do have the irresistible drive to write, but it’s not to write novels. I don’t get paid for it, but in return I have the freedom to write whatever I want, and the pleasure of seeing it read and appreciated by many, if not thousands. I would love for it to turn into the kind of writing that could be conventionally published, but that may never happen.

Am I a writer? I think I am, but not in the way I expected. I’m doing something I love, and that’s what matters.

Do you think of yourself as a writer? What does that mean to you?

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26 responses to “Am I a writer?

  1. Interesting question! I don’t think I consider myself a writer….I think I consider myself a reader and I do write in order to get my thoughts across about books, but it’s kind of ancillary to the reading for me. But, I also never had childhood dreams of becoming a writer or had anything published!

    • I do find that writing is important as an extension of my reading. It helps me to understand and synthesize what I’ve read, so in that sense blog-writing could be considered part of the reading process rather than a craft in itself.

  2. Yes! I so enjoy your writing and here’s a fine example. I really identify with the path your desire to write has taken. I loved writing stories as a child and knew that I wanted to “be a writer.” Lots of schooling in between, a few detours, and then I find I am a non-fiction writer, specifically one who likes crafting appreciation of stories, rather than new stories. I occasionally get the fiction writing urge and it becomes a short exercise that convinces me that my temperament is not patient enough for world making in fiction and confirms my path in essay-review blogging now.

    • My goodness, yes, writers of fiction have to be so patient and determined. I’m always in awe when I hear of how they’ve worked on a novel for many years!

  3. I think bloggers are writers. I was thinking about this during NaNoWriMo. It was easy for me to write 2000 words a day. I wasn’t sure why until I realized that I’ve been writing on a consistent basis for years on my blog.

    • Interesting point — it seems that just forming the habit of writing can be important, even when switching to a different form or genre.

  4. This is a great post.

    Personally I never had a desire to be writer. But the ability to express oneself through writing and have other people read what we have to say, is really a wonderful thing.

    i love your blog so in my opinion, your endeavor to write in this way form has really payed off.

  5. Of course bloggers can be writers–I think that if you consider yourself a writer, you’ll try to do more of it and you’ll try to get better at it. I’ve “taught writing” since 1983 and those are my two best suggestions for improving–you’ve got to want to, and you’ve got to practice and have someone read it.

    • Good advice, Jeanne, thank you. I have found that the regular practice of blogging (and before that, writing reviews for the Green Man Review) has stimulated me to want to improve my writing. Just knowing that someone else is reading it gives a different perspective.

  6. So many of the book bloggers I follow are also good writers, so I consider them to be writers. The funny thing is that I don’t feel that way about myself. I think of myself as a reader who likes to write about what I read. Maybe that’s because I have never done anything remotely close to writing until I started my blog. Once upon a time, I was a science student.

    • The great thing is that the way to be a writer is just to write. Whether it’s done as personal self-expression or more consciously crafted, we can all participate in the writing life.

  7. For me, the experience of writing the website with a specific audience has been incredibly instructive. I do consider myself to be a writer – but I am one with or without my site, if I don’t write then I feel flat and unhappy.
    I do think though that my personal creative writing can sometimes lose out to the site, which is a goal to correct this year. Still, I feel more confident in professional communication after four years of keeping up Girl with her Head in a Book.
    Thank you for this discussion – a really worthwhile point to consider.

    • I also feel there may be other forms of writing I’m missing out on with all the time it takes to keep up the blog. But for now I do find it a great learning experience. I’m glad the question resonated with you — it’s very close to my heart.

  8. Awesome post!
    I’ve always wanted to be a writer in the same way you did – having written novels that have been accepted and published by a publishing house. I still hope to have a novel published one day, but I have definitely found that my fiction writing has taken a back seat to things like my blog, and I hope that makes me a writer! I always think of myself as one simply because I’m a person who writes, but I hope one day to be a professional writer.

    • I hope you reach that goal one day! In the meantime, I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to share our thoughts through blogging.

  9. Wow, are you in my head? lol 🙂 I always knew I was going to be a writer and in my teen years I filled notebooks with short fiction. There was no hesitation when it came time to chose a path in college and I went on to major in English, emphasis in Writing. And yet here I am many years later, and I’ve lost that drive to get published. Instead blogging has been the outlet that fits me best over the past few years, and through the various blogs I’ve created I’ve been able to write in a way that’s low pressure and is enjoyable to me 🙂 I’m a writer who’s format is blogging and that’s ok!

  10. I love this discussion! I too had vague dreams of being an author, but never felt able to actually, you know, come up with stories, which seems to be a pretty basic prerequisite. I journaled constantly from ages 8-25 or so, then that trailed off. I think part of it was that a lot of my journaling was self discovery stuff, and by my mid twenties I had a pretty good handle on who I am. Another aspect was the creative urge, and as I became a teacher, I poured that into my lesson planning.

    I’ve always felt that if I WERE to become a writer “creative non-fiction” would be my forte, which is basically what blogging is. I started my first blog when we were going through the adoption process and then adjusting to life with our kids, and it was super helpful to me. Over time, though, it became repetitive, except for the parts that I didn’t really feel comfortable sharing with the world. When I discovered book blogs last spring, it didn’t take long to realize how much fun that would be for me. I guess it makes me feel like I’m a little bit of a writer, even if I’m not the kind of writer I dreamed of being.

  11. Yep! You are definitely a writer (and so am I!). Sometimes we bloggers don’t think of ourselves this way, but anyone who writes regularly and has an audience of readers is a writer. Our blogs are one form of creative outlet, while writing novels is a different one. Someday I’d still like to write an actual book, but for now I’m very content with the writing I’m doing!

    • I agree that blogging can be highly creative, and I do think we should recognize ourselves as writers. “Anyone who writes regularly and has an audience of readers” is a great way to define that role.

  12. Lory, I’ve wondered about this myself. I spend hours crafting a post and don’t think of myself as a writer. But you are right, we are. We are looking to create a connection with our audience and we write what we feel passionate about. It certainly isn’t the writing I imagined myself doing (I wrote lots of sappy love poetry in HS and college), but it is writing and it makes me happy.

  13. I loved to read books from an early age, but had no inclination to write books myself. Once I got into college and majored in history, I found I loved doing research, writing history papers and writing critical reviews on the books we read. Still, though, as much writing as I did, I never considered myself a writer. I never wanted to write a (history) book and to me that’s what a writer did.

    Now with my blog and the Internet, I am finding my definition of ‘writer’ is much broader than I ever thought!

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