Monday, August 5, 2019

You Might Be a Writer If …

By Yolanda Smith

You Might Be a Writer If …
  • You’re an introvert.
  • You feel a compulsion to write every single day.
  • You drink more than five cups of coffee per day.
  • You listen to epic movie soundtracks while you write.
  • You are a prolific outliner.
  • Your favorite books are On Writing by Stephen King, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
  • Your office attire is your favorite set of pajamas.
  • You wrote your first story in fourth grade.
  • Your favorite social activities are critique meetings and writers’ conferences.
  • You nerd out on grammar studies.
  • You sort your M&M’s and Skittles by color.
  • You wash your light and dark laundry together.
  • You only shower every third Tuesday of the month.

Are you a writer, or aren’t you? Do you give weight to lists like this, or do they drive you crazy?

Perhaps you saw yourself in the beginning of the list and got excited. “Yes, I must be a writer,” you said. But I’m sure I lost you somewhere in the middle. If not the middle, then you definitely stopped nodding your head by the end … I hope.

A Sense of Belonging
Folks who compile lists like this have one goal in mind: to lend a sense of belonging and connection. Those of us who read these lists hope to catch a glimpse of ourselves among the identifying traits. Then we feel justified in pulling up a log and seating ourselves by the fires of our kindred tribe. If we agree with fifty or sixty percent of them, it brings a sense of validation or secures us a spot in the camp. We get to buy the t-shirt.

But what if the reverse is true? What if you read a writerly list and the waters are murky? You don’t see a clear reflection staring back at you. Does that mean you’re not a true writer? That you don’t belong?

What if you are an extrovert who writes novels while wearing a tiara and standing on one leg? Sounds a little weird, but owning a weird card might still get you a pass through the door of Ye Olde Scribes Club. What if you don’t write for three weeks, then spend a long weekend binge-writing a Bible study? Maybe you consume seven glasses of milk and a bowl of pretzels with mustard during your writing sessions. How much can you veer off the trodden path before you no longer belong?

When I first became a writer and stumbled across “You might be a writer if” list, I was hopeful I’d find myself among the rank and file. Instead, I felt doubtful, guilty, and excluded. I only met some of the criteria. Perhaps I don't have it in me after all, I told myself. I’m an extrovert. I don’t listen to music when I write. I shower on the third Tuesday AND Thursday of every month.
Okay, I also shower all the other days of the month.

We are Writers Because We Write
We face enough doubt without “helpful” lists heaping extra upon our shoulders. We are writers because we write. That is our solitary, unifying thread.

One of my mentors and I discussed the topic of writership recently, and she asked (and I’m paraphrasing), “When is an artist an artist? Is it when they sell a painting? Must their art be critically acclaimed? Or are they an artist because they create art?”

We live in an individualistic society where unique traits are celebrated. In the writing world, it’s our individual strengths, personalities, styles, and quirks that make our writing sing. And those strengths and style variations, and even our weaknesses, stem from an individualistic approach to what makes each of us tick.

Christ secured our place by the fire. Whether we write because He called us, or we plunk down our words as a fun hobby, we are writers. It doesn’t matter if we possess buckets of talent or grow in our craft by sheer determination. Panster or plotter, binge-writer or daily discipline—give weight to your own voice and do what works for you. Writing is the one true thing that makes us writers. It is enough. Pull up a log.

(Photos courtesy of Miles/artur84.)


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