Are You a Writer? (Part 2)

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You want to be a doctor? A bookkeeper? A welder? Go to school, get your training/degree(s) and away you go. No one doubts what your job is. You’re validated by those pieces of paper. And so you should be. You worked hard to earn them and that’s great.

But a writer? We come from everywhere. Some have multiple degrees, some never finished high school. We don’t fit into any “training” category so no one gets to put their stamp of approval on us and say, “Yes, you are now officially a writer.”

And that’s the problem.

Writers get publicly validated when they publish. (In today’s indie publishing—as opposed to traditional—some might say that writers get validated when they have readers.)

But there’s no leading-up-to-it certificate. No visible, tangible award to show how many hours we’ve sweated, how many social events we didn’t go to, how much sleep we lost so that we could make the time to write.

So it’s not enough to say to ourselves “I am a writer.” It’s important, but it’s not enough.

Step two is standing (sitting) strong and writing. Writing against the looks, the winks, the rolling-of-eyes when they think you don’t notice. It’s about validating yourself. Whether you go traditional or indie, know that you are a writer, no matter what.

Write anyway.

I write, because if I didn’t, my insides would implode. I write because I need to, just like I need to eat and drink.

Do I want outside validation? Oh, hell yes! But in the meantime, I’m validating myself. I’m a writer and I’m writing.

Part One

Are You a Writer?

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Well, are you? Look around right this second. No one is seeing this but you. And you don’t have to say anything out loud. So answer the question.

Are you a writer?

“I haven’t published anything.”

“It’s just a little thing.”

“I write but not like [fill in name of writer].”

I didn’t ask you that. One more time:

Are you a writer?

No? Not sure? Not feeling worthy to admit it? Why? Well, there’s a few reasons why you might be feeling that way. Let’s tackle one.

I always knew I could write. Everyone knew I could write. But I never said “I’m a writer.” That’s different, I’d argue. I’ve had nonfiction articles published but the fiction stuff, that’s just different. I’m not published in that.

I began writing a novel, got stuck halfway, and couldn’t get past it. So I stopped writing while that albatross sat on my shoulders.

And the years rolled on.

It took a number of events before I looked in the mirror and said, very quietly, “I’m a writer.”

Nothing happened. Lightbulbs didn’t shatter, the mirror didn’t crack, the floor didn’t tremble. There was quiet in the tiny bathroom. No big deal. I’m a writer. Of course I am. Now to put my money where my mouth was.

I began saying it to people when asked what I did. “I’m a writer, working on my first novel.”

No derisive laughter appeared at the statement. A lot of times the person would say, “That’s amazing! You know, I’ve had this idea for a book for years but somehow never got around to it.”

Or:

“That’s great! As soon as I retire I’m going to write a book.”

(These kinds of comments will be fodder for a whole different entry one day in the future.)

But the point remains. I accepted that I’m a writer so everyone else did as well. I can hear one of the “Yeah, but” comments as I type this:

“But I don’t have anything published. At least your articles were published.”

True. But you know what? No one asks what I’ve published. As soon as I mention what I’m working on now, the idea is accepted. I’m a writer and I’m writing.

Isn’t that what writers do? Is that what you’re doing? Are you writing?

Then you’re a writer.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? So why doesn’t it feel that way?

To be continued….

Start in the Middle

“Beginnings are hard.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

“I have to explain so much I’m afraid no one will be reading when I get to the real story.”

I’ve heard these words from other writers. I’ve said these words. I’ve had stories that were ready to leap onto the page—if I could have just gotten started.

So I began in the middle. My characters knew who they were, what they wanted to do, and jumped right into the action. I decided the beginning could be written later.

That’s the neat and clean version.

What actually happened was, I was riding the bus to the subway when dialogue went off in my head. I had a pen and the back of an envelope and began writing as fast as I could to capture it. These people were completely involved in their drama and it didn’t matter that I had no clue what went before.

And a funny thing happened. In the end, only a few paragraphs were needed to set up the story. If I had waited until I had a perfect beginning, it would have all been lost. Starting in the middle was the way to begin.

So, what about you? Are you letting the beginning stop you?

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