IT’S good to get past the illusion that as a writer, you must toil away in anonymity, your genius unseen and your destiny unfulfilled, until the moment fame catapults you to the status of best-selling gazillionaire.
That’s the trajectory of just a few writers. It’s a destiny that’s so unlikely to be yours that you may as well write if off as pure fantasy. I was going to write “sadly” in the previous sentence, but I don’t think it really is all that sad. You don’t need to be Stephen King or JK Rowling to be a writer. You don’t need a big break. Or fame. Or fortune. Those things would be nice, sure — but they’re not what makes you a writer.
Writing makes you a writer. Maybe you get paid to write and maybe you don’t. Maybe you get published and maybe you don’t. Maybe you have a job title that includes “writer” in it and maybe you don’t. Notwithstanding the differences between professional and hobby writers, and published and unpublished writers, the simple fact is that if you write, then you’re a writer. You’re involved in a process, a craft, a trade or an art.
It’s difficult to argue that you are a writer if you don’t write at all — although many people do. I sometimes fall into the trap of being a “writer who doesn’t write”. It’s hard to overcome that, but I find that getting my thoughts onto paper helps. It’s slightly more plausible to argue you’re a writer if you write occasionally. Some output, of course, is better than none. But if you’re writing regularly — what I call “repeat writing” — then you’re unequivocally a writer. If that sounds painfully obvious, don’t be so sure. We often reduce writing to empty stereotypes. It can even leave us thinking that we’re not real writers unless we’re trying to write a fantasy trilogy that can be adapted into a mega-blockbuster Hollywood film franchise.
But writing, in many forms, is everywhere. So are writers. Think about the numerous purposes for writing in our society: research reports, laws, contracts, news stories, poems, speeches, incident reports, school report cards — the list could go on and on. Many people creating written content are anonymous beyond their personal and professional circles; often, they’re working regular jobs, making enough money to get by or, if they’re more fortunate, live comfortably. They’re not necessarily considered by others to be “writers”. But the words they produce are crucial to how our world functions.
Writing is wonderful, but it’s also essential. The good news is that opportunities to write and be a writer are everywhere. If you’re a “repeat writer”, you likely know it already, even if that’s something that — for now, at least — is part of your self-identity more than your social identity. If this is you, it is likely you already have a process you follow, a thirst that needs quenching, and a restlessness you feel when you’re not able to get words onto a screen (or paper).
“Repeat writers” keep writing. They recognise — and create — opportunities in their work life or free time that allow them to write. And keep writing. There are many reasons to embrace that experience and channel it into a writer identity, particularly if you feel that writing is simply part of you. Being discovered, lauded and deified are not prerequisites to calling yourself a writer. Writing itself is the only prerequisite you need.