Vision of a Writer

Once, many years ago, I attended a workshop where we did a visualization of the future:  In my vision, I saw myself writing while my husband took care of our child. It was a beautiful day and after a morning of writing, my husband and I had lunch with our child, and then we all took a bike ride together.

After the visualization, the instructor looked at me. I was silently crying.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“It’s impossible,” I said. At that moment, my vision seemed like a cruel joke. I was working full-time (>100 hrs/wk) as a physician, I was deep in debt, and I’d been trying to get pregnant for years and nothing had worked.

The following week I quit my job and started working as a freelance writer—No, just kidding.

Actually, I left the workshop that day thinking that Martha Beck (the instructor) was a sadistic woman. I hadn’t realized how much I wanted to be a writer until I did that visualization and now I knew how miserable I was but I couldn’t do anything about it.

Or could I?

What I did was—return to the workshop the next day, where I started to feel a glimmer of hope. After all, the visualization was about 5 years in my future. I had time. I could figure it out. And I did. (The writing part, I mean. Getting pregnant was just my own personal miracle, if you ask me.)

The way I started to figure it out was that I started to change my thoughts about my life. Once I did that, everything else followed.

Here’s an exercise I did at that time that helped me change my thoughts about myself as a writer. Maybe they will help you.

My Dichotomous Life

(taken from The Joy Diet, by Martha Beck)

  1. I can either be __________________________ or ___________________________________.
  2. I can either have _________________________ or __________________________________.
  3. I can either do __________________________ or ___________________________________.

Now, rewrite the very same things in the blanks below.

  1. I intend to be both _______________________ and ___________________________________.
  2. I intend to have both _______________________ and _________________________________.
  3. I intend to do both _______________________ and ___________________________________.

With exercises like these, and many others, I slowly started to think of myself as a writer and, as a result, I started writing more. Not just in my journal, but local articles in free papers near where I lived, and short stories for my family to read.

I continue to work on my identity as a writer. Every time I sit my butt in the chair and start typing, I call myself a writer. Here’s the statement I’m working on now:

“I can either be a novelist or a nonfiction author,” became “I intend to be both a novelist and a nonfiction author.”

Do you have any tricks or exercises that nurture your identity as a writer?

52 thoughts on “Vision of a Writer

  1. Thanks for this post. I am in this space right now, 100% in a professional life and suddenly realizing how much I want to be a writer. Can I call myself a writer? It can be an overwhelming thought at times. This post was very inspirational for me. Thank you.

    • Hi jeanbriese,
      Thanks for your comment. You can call yourself a writer as soon as you put your butt in the chair and put pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard! One of the ways I make myself feel better about myself as a writer (especially when I’m talking to professionals like agents or publishers) is I say that I’m doing my “10,000 hours” to become a master at my craft. Even after I got my MD and people started calling me doctor, I still had three more years of training to do!

      Good luck and keep writing!


  2. Write every day – even if it’s only a few jottings in a notebook, and give yourself permission to think of yourself as a writer – even if you don’t broadcast it.
    As Kate Mosse said – “There’s only one difference between published and unpublished writers and it is this – the first group see their work in print on the shelves of Waterstone’s or Tesco or online at Amazon; the second group are yet to have physical evidence of the hours, weeks, years spent fashioning words into their patterns. You are already a writer.”

  3. Diane, thanks for this reminder! You’re absolutely right in all respects. I wonder if there are others out there (possibly more women than men??) who feel guilty about taking time to write?

    I can find a hundred things to do before I sit down to write, but now I am not going to procrastinate any longer. Similarly, I spend a lot of my time working at the day job – which isn’t what I want to do all the time. Combining writing with a job can be done, I’m sure. Thanks for the motivation!

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      Thanks for your comments. Yes, it’s really easy to do “everything else” before you sit down to write. One trick I use is to do the writing task I need or want to do first, before I do anything else. So today, for example, I had an unexpected couple of hours to myself, and I sat down and wrote a blog post first–then I checked email and started doing other things. Sometimes I’ll tell myself “I’ll just write for 10 minutes, and then I’ll…” do whatever else needs to be done. Then I end up writing for longer, but I’m never unhappy about that!

      Good luck and keep writing!

  4. Reblogged this on susannecollier and commented:
    I love positive posts like this, which help us all to re-asses, and ultimately get back on track. Thank you for writing this Diane. xx

  5. Wayne Dyer said he takes a book off his shelf, and
    recovers it with a makeshift dustjacket that has the title of the book he intends to write. Hmm. I think I’ll do that today! Thanks 🙂

    • Hi debreilly,
      That’s a great idea! I just might do that for the short story I’m hoping to submit soon! I used to collage journal covers, maybe I’ll collage a cover for my future novel (I’ve rewritten it twice, but it still needs more work.)

      Thanks for the inspiration!


  6. After I retired I thought I might do a book for two communities’ Come Home Years’ celebrations. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. First I started blogs aBout the communities and then I did a post on each blog asking for stories from others. So far I’ve gotten 38 writers from one and 10 from the other. Now I’m figuring out the best way to get them published and many writers are giving me suggestions. Here are my two blogs:
    Hope you check them out.

    • Hi newfoundlandtraveller,
      What a great idea! Good luck with you books–I hope you are enjoying the process. It sounds very exciting. I checked out your blogs–very cool. Loved all the amazing pictures.

      My family is from PEI and I still go back to visit as often as I can. I haven’t visited Newfoundland yet, but definitely hope to get there in the next few years.


    • Hi Felicity,
      First, I think if you call yourself a writer, you’re a writer. Don’t wait until someone else calls you a writer. Depending on who’s around you, you may never hear the words. I read an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert after Eat, Pray, Love, the movie, came out. She went home to visit and her dad asked her when she was going to get a good job (or something like that. He didn’t think author was a stable job for his little girl.)

      Second, I’m sorry but I don’t know a thing about reblogging. It’s part of the skill set I’m hoping to learn this year (along with social media stuff) but I’m not there yet. But I appreciate that you wanted to reblog my post!!

      Best wishes and keep writing!


  7. Thank you for this post Diane. I try to have paper and pencil, or a digital recorder with me. When I recognize on emotion or feeling raise up, I make notes about it. I can return to it later to reignite what I was experiencing. If I do not do that, it is lost. For me, it was a need to write, not a desire. Publishing my first book gave me a feeling of “freedom”. If you desire to write… WRITE!

  8. Thank you…these posts are so inspirational. I have a tendency to talk myself out of writing and have decided that the mantra, “I will write SOMETHING, even if its not my best, today.”

    • Hi jaunedefils,
      I like that mantra! In “Bird By Bird,” a writing book by Annie Lamott, she suggests putting “Sh**ty First Draft” at the top of the first blank page. I used to do that for every first draft, then I’d delete it on subsequent drafts. It helped take the pressure off. You could try a version of that: “Soon-to-be-rewritten, so not so important draft” perhaps?

      Good luck and keep writing!


    • Hi Cindy,
      That’s great! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Sometimes just looking at something a little differently is all you need to spark your creativity.

      Best wishes and keep writing!


  9. Thank you for the inspiration. It reminds us the power of the word in our accomplishments. How many times in life has a connotation caused us to turn away from what may have been an amazing experience, a journey, a love, a goal’s attainment? We need to be sure that the voice within is the strongest one that we hear each day.

    • Hi sim508msw,
      You are welcome. Thanks for reading. Yes, I work hard to try to make sure I’m listening to the part of myself that makes decisions out of love rather than fear. Exercises like the one in the post have helped me do this.


  10. I believe that energy follows thought… this exercise helps thoughts materialise! But what do you do when you hit a low? the thoughts just dont flow how you want them to? Iv kinda hit a dead end 😦

    • Hi Dee,
      My short answer is to change your thoughts. Rather than thinking, “I’ve hit a dead end,” what other thought can you believe that feels better (doesn’t have to be a lot better, just a little better.) How about “I need to take a break from this,” or even, “all is well.” Maybe you do need to take a break from the writing you are doing–either by doing a completely different kind of writing, or by doing something completely different. As creatives, we need to fill ourselves up before we can spill out onto the page. If the well is dry, maybe you just need to fill it up again. For me, this could be going for a run or a swim, or just a walk in the woods, but it also could be hanging out with my sisters or my husband and doing nothing for a while.

      Let me know how it’s going.


  11. Isn’t it interesting how pivotal learning moments in life such as the one you describe in Martha Beck’s workshop can be occasions of such misery? I had the same experience many years ago (on a life drawing course) when I was forced roughly out of my comfort zone and allowed only to use materials that wouldn’t make marks that I could either control or make beautiful, in an environment that was cold and ugly and unfamiliar. After about three days of this torture something happened; I finally began to understand what drawing really is, and I don’t believe I would have learnt it any other way.

    It also taught me that whatever you do creatively, if you give it everything you have and do it with complete honestly, without pretension – do it, in other words, from your soul and with all your skill – then you are whatever that activity proclaims you to be. Artist, musician, writer – whatever you truly are.

  12. For years I said, “I want to be a writer.” Now, within the last few months since starting blogging and getting down to the end of the millionth edit of my book manuscript, I honestly tell people, “I’m a writer!” No, not paid yet…but still…I AM a writer!!!!

  13. I have my blog where i write funny stories which happened with me or friends of my before and I have the dream to write a book but when i sit to write it’s so much more complicated, but this post is really inspiring thanks for sharing the thought!

    • Hi samyel02,
      Thanks for your comments. I think we make our writing complicated but the way to get it done (I believe) is to keep breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces until each one seems doable. I think that’s why so many people end up with books that come out of their blogs. They just write 500 words at a time and after a few months or years they have enough material for a book!

      Good luck with your writing!


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