Ever get the “OMG I’m-not-really-a-writer, why-am-I-kidding-myself” blues? Agent Nathan Bransford calls them the “Am-I-Crazies.” Most of us have been there. Rejections are pouring in. Your WIP is stalled. Your BFF has refused to listen to one more word about the unfairness of the publishing industry. After a sleepless, agonizing night, you decide you’re unworthy to call yourself a writer.
Q. So how DO you know if you’re a writer?
A. You write.
If you go off by yourself at regular intervals to create stuff using words, you’re a writer. Maybe you haven’t written anything publishable yet. Maybe you’ve written a bunch of first chapters that lead nowhere. Maybe you’ve never shown your stuff to anybody but your cat. But you’re a writer.
Some people are born to it. If you’re one of those, your early years went something like this:
· You gave names and backstories to the characters in your coloring books.
· You wrote a whodunit in third grade in which you killed off the assistant principal who gave you detention that time when it wasn’t even your fault.
· You poured your adolescent angst into verses that relied heavily on rhyming the word “rain” with “pain.”
· After your first romance ended, above the emotional agony, a tiny voice narrated in your head, “So this is what a broken heart feels like, she thought, as she trudged on leaden feet toward her empty room…”
Some of you came to it later. After taking an inspiring class, reading an extraordinary book, or experiencing something that begged to be shared in written form, strange things started to happen:
· Both your roommates went off to a party. You weren’t invited. But you couldn’t have been happier. Time alone to write!
· You could no longer join workplace chat about TV, because you didn’t even recognize the names of the shows. Who has time to waste on television?
· When your friends exchanged funny stories about their kids, you chimed in with an anecdote about what your protagonist did last night.
· Writing took on the urgency of a bodily function.
Other writers are just getting started. You’ve always loved books and wanted to write, and you’re finally getting concrete ideas for the book you know you’ve got in you. Or you’ve just set up a blog. (Yes, blogging is writing.)
· You pretend you’re looking for jobs online, but instead you’re doing research for a story or interesting things to post about.
· You haven’t told a soul, but you’ve kind of written three chapters and sketched out a couple of scenes that might work into a novel.
· You used to tune out when the old lady next door droned on about her tragic life. Now you eagerly note all the details for use in future fiction.
· Your most titillating fantasies involve books in a Barnes and Noble window with your name on the cover.
Q. Yeah but… sez you. I want to know if I’m a REAL writer—can I make a living at it?
A. If you write and you’re not a wooden puppet carved by an old Italian guy named Gepetto, you’re a real writer. Most writers don’t make a living at it. Not creative writers, anyway. (Journalists are having a hard time of it these days, too.) Only a handful of superstars can quit their day jobs. Of course every one of us hopes to be a superstar some day, and nobody should give up the dream, but there’s no point in going all either/or.
Think of it like this:
Q. How many people play golf?
A. How many of them are Tiger Woods?
Should everybody else give up golf?
Nobody starts at the top. Every star was a clueless beginner once. Learning takes time. We have to spend years—maybe decades—taking classes, studying how-to books and blogs, joining critique groups, and learning the ins and outs of the publishing business—the way a golfer works to perfect a swing. It’s a process. A really, really long process.
So before you give in to the I’m-not-really-a-writer blues, remember:
· If your queries are coming back with form/silent rejections, you’re a writer.
· If your WIP is refusing to come to a satisfactory end and you kind of hate your protagonist right now, you’re a writer.
· If your neglected spouse suggests you take up something more lucrative and less time consuming, like making a model of the Taj Mahal out of toothpicks, you’re a writer.
· If you’re questioning your worthiness to call yourself a writer—welcome to the club.
Don’t give up because you don’t have an agent yet, or your mother-in-law calls you a slacker who “sits around on your butt all day,” or your mechanic keeps asking why you don't have the money to replace that clunker.
You’re a writer.