This month’s guest blogger is Kathryn Atkins, who just happens to be a professional writer and who owns Writing World, LLC. She has been paid for writing in magazines and writes blog posts, white papers, and case studies for businesses of all sizes. She has been published in anthologies and newspapers, and has published her own literary collection, Giving My Self to the Wind. She is past president of the California Writers Club of Long Beach, and she has finished a novel, but says it needs work. Before Kathryn was a professional writer, she was ‘just’ a writer—and she still is. That’s as good as it gets. Her author page is here. Follow Kathryn on Twitter,Facebook, and Instagram.
I hear it often. “I like to write, but I don’t know if I’m a writer.”
Anyway, if you’re reading this, you might be questioning if you’re a writer. Maybe you think you’re an imposter—that you’re not a “real” writer.
Let me help you. You. Are. A. Writer.
For the longest time, I thought I wasn’t a writer because I hadn’t published a book. I hadn’t finished my novels (plural). How many? I don’t know. Lost count. Maybe three. They’re somewhere. But only one was finished-finished. I mean, finished as in taken to a writers conference and sent to agents. No. It didn’t get picked up. Am I still a writer? Yes, I think so.
So, are you a writer? Let’s see!
- You have two or maybe twenty or thirty books about writing—stuff on craft, publishing, poetry, and grammar. I like Elements of Style. So perhaps you don’t have books. Have you ever read a writer’s magazine? Taken a course for writers? Attended a meet-up or a workshop or a critique group for writers? Written in a journal? I don’t care. If you’ve done any of the above, you’re a writer.
- You have titles for stories, cool-sounding words, and quotations you like all over the golly gosh darn gee place. Drawers. Notebooks. Files. (Real files, like manila folders. You know. Paper. That stuff.) Stacks of three-by-five and four-by-six cards. Post-it notes. Envelopes. Your phone. Your bathroom mirror. (Use white-board pens. They work great!) Yes. Your computer, too.
- You’re a pen whore. You buy pens that make you feel good. A favorite creative person you follow recommends a pen. You buy one. You’re pencil cups runneth over, but you don’t care. You try different shapes. Colors. Brands. Rollerball, gel, fountain (I’ve never met one I liked), fine, medium, and fat tips. You even like to try a variety of whiteout brands. Just. For. Fun.
- Your spouse buys you a book at the airport. It’s about writing.
- Your kids buy you Moleskin notebooks for Christmas. They know you’re hopelessly addicted.
- You have spiral bound notebooks with fairytales, essays, character sketches, conversations, weird riffs on colors, flavors, bugs, flowers, doors, shoes, and any other thing that happens to have popped into your head and squeezed out through your fingers onto the page with ink, or on the computer with . . . gee. Hmm. What is it if it’s on the computer?
- Your friends know you’re a “writer,” but they’re not sure what you do all day. Or not sure that you really get up before work and write, or stay up and write after everyone else is sleeping. Like right now. They don’t know that you lay awake at night worrying about whether you should have used an em dash or an en dash in that last piece.
- You go to writers’ gatherings, attend Romance Writers of America meetings or a Mystery Writer’s conference. You support fellow writers at author talks, and book launches and you go to literary functions and buy more books than you can read in a decade. Then you go to another one and buy more. You might join a critique group or try the newer-fangled writer’s meet-ups. If you’re a real whack job, you go to all of these.
- You put on your big person’s panties one day and decide to publish. Something. Anything. You submit to a newspaper. You submit to a magazine. They don’t answer. If they reply and say no, you’re lucky. Mostly you never hear anything at all.
- You don’t give up.
- You write an essay. You write up a neighborhood event. You attend a self-defense class and send a write-up to the neighborhood rag. You write about your kids’ music lessons. You help your son start a school newspaper. He’s in the fourth grade. You write a short story. Your story is published in your kid’s newspaper. Yes, with your byline. J
- You write a poem. You write in your journal. You write your mom a poem. You write about your high school reunion. You get the self-defense article in the local rag. Wait!!!! You’re in print! You make ten copies and mail them to all your relatives. It’s not even close to the holidays.
- You’re hooked. Your elation sends people running when they see you. Your dog takes to walking three steps behind you at the dog park.
- You’re convinced now. No? You didn’t get your piece in the neighborhood newspaper?
- You keep writing. You have a friend who needs help with their wedding vows. You help them. Another person’s mom passes away. They call YOU to help them write the last rights, and you don’t even know her mom. Your friend knows you’re a writer.
- You decide to admit it. You are a writer. You write. You’re a writer. I didn’t say professional, did I? If you’ve been paid, then yes, you’re a professional writer. But that’s it. It doesn’t matter. If you write, and you love it, then trust me. . .
20. Real writer.
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