Is the mere act of “calling” oneself a writer enough? Does someone who journals occasionally merit the appellation? Is publication a requirement? Is a person who composes haiku as worthy of the name as a novelist who can’t manage to tell a story in less than 900 printed pages?
I’ve wondered about this for a long time. It bothers me most during dry periods when the computer screen and a blank piece of paper seem as terrifying as abject poverty.
During the assured and comfortable years when I was writing, editing and concepting my Sasha Solomon mysteries, the issue didn't unsettle me. I was writing. I was getting publishing. I was valid.
Even when I had days or weeks with no more productivity than penning a grocery list, I still called myself a writer because I was living the life, living the dream . . . and I had street cred because of my three novels and two award nominations.
Then came the decision to discontinue my NM mystery series (at least for now), the life-changing Master Class, the need to start making a predictable income by going back to my PR consulting roots . . .
And, suddenly, I didn’t feel like a writer anymore. I hadn’t published much fiction in a few years. Writing had lost its joy for me. I felt like I had to force every word. Was I a sham? Could I legitimately call myself a writer when I wasn't telling stories from my heart anymore?
My self identity plummeted. I felt like an imposter whenever I thought about writing and what I was doing with my life. Let me tell you, the world turned gray there for awhile.
In July, I decided to try something different. I promised myself to write fiction every single day. No exceptions. The quality didn’t matter – crap or brilliance – it was all the same. The amount didn’t matter – a sentence or 20 pages – the act was the important thing. In order to feel like a writer, I had to nourish my creativity daily. Period. I had to commit. I had to be consistent.
The first few weeks of the month were difficult. Who knew I could come up with so many excuses to avoid my computer? "Well, then you'll just have to use pen and paper," I'd tell myself.
"I only wrote 100 words and they're all shit," I complained.
"Cool. Think of them as literary compost for whatever you'll write next," I responded.
Slowly I started feeling better, more honest.
This month, I decided to push myself further. I’m noting my daily fiction word count on my FB “fan” page. Without trying, I find myself writing more, getting lost in the story with greater ease and pleasure. I'm having fun.
I feel like a writer again . . .
So what do you think?
What is a writer? Is just calling yourself one enough?
Does consistency matter, writing daily/weekly/monthy?
Is publication a requirement? Once published are you forever a writer -- whether you're writing anymore or not?
Does length matter?