Own the Title: Writer

I AM A WRITERI had two conversations in the past week that made me scrap my original blog post for today, and write this one. (Don’t worry, I will write about combining writer’s platforms soon.)

One conversation was during a talk I gave to a 5th grade class. My friend Pat Spence runs a great non-profit called They Made It, So Can I, where speakers go into 5th grade classes in Boston and talk about how they got to where they are. She asked me to go in and talk about being a writer. During the question and answer session, one of the teachers gave me the prompt that they had been talking about the importance of creativity. I looked around, and let them in on a secret. That anyone can write, there is no right way to write, and that everyone has a story that is worth telling. They may tell their story in prose, in a poem, as a graphic novel, as a play or screenplay. It can be long or short. But don’t let anyone tell you are you doing it wrong. A few grins broke out, and one girl looked relieved.

Today I had lunch with a friend and her book group. They had all read my book, Just Killing Time, and I was invited to be part of the book discussion. I was thrilled to be asked. Meeting readers is one of my favorite parts of this journey. One of the women asked how long I’d been writing, was my degree in English, where had I taken classes. I asked her if she was a writer.

“It’s a dream, but I’m only a wannabe, not a real writer.”

“Of course you’re a real writer,” I said. “Own it.”

Our conversation wasn’t over. I gave her a list of books I’d found helpful, suggested she look at classes at Grub Street, talked about the importance of editing, and told her about the 2 books I wrote that will never see the light of day.

I recognize that there are going to be people who bristle at my “own it” philosophy of writing. But since writing is a craft that is honed over time, I suggest we all seize the mantle. You may not be a good writer for a while. Pacing, plotting, dramatic structure, characters, themes, setting–all of this gets better with practice. It is never easy, but it does get better. If you don’t allow yourself to call yourself a writer until some magic time in the future, the time will never come. The more you write, the more you strive to write better. But no matter where you are in your apprenticeship, you are a writer.

For the love of all that is good and right in the world, admit the dream aloud, and don’t put a caveat around it.

You are a writer. Own it.

Then do it.


37 thoughts on “Own the Title: Writer

  1. Really inspiring! I’d kept my writing in for a long time because I had awful grammar, spelling and handwriting. No one seemed to be interested in what I wrote apart from a few friends. But then I realised that I don’t write for people. I write for me. So then I wrote. Just because of the exhilaration it gave me. I made a blog so I could share this experience with people. Not just my stories, but why it’s important to be creative and listen to your heart. And most importantly, not to hold yourself back from what you love.
    My writing has improved a great deal now and I’m so proud of the decision I made. ❤

  2. Everybody who dancers is a dancer. And everybody who paints is a painter. Everyone who gardens is a gardener. And everyone who runs, a runner. So, while I definitely agree with the sentiment, and the intended sense of encouragement here, I wonder about the need to “own,” the imperative of it being necessary at all. I’d prefer to keep it breezy and just let the magic happen that’s, generally speaking, already happening—long before these things get bottled up, packaged, sold or considered “worthy” for sale and such.

  3. Thank you for this. No one needs a formal education to have ideas, collect them into a story and put ‘pen to paper’ even if they never see the light of day. Very encouraging!

  4. I love what you have to say.
    My issue was that I always knew that I loved to write. But I got the idea that you are only a real writer when you made money at it, or had a large fan base… when others actually read and acknowledged your work…
    I still like the idea of “putting it out there”–sharing it with others, and doing so in a way that speaks to them.
    I now have a writing consultant. I experience being “heard” when I share with her; and she also gives me much needed direction–e.g. pointing out when what I see as being so obvious doesn’t make sense to her as a reader, etc. I also have two novellas on Kindle–with a third on the way.
    I’m not sure how “successful” I am, as few–if any people–have bought the novellas. But I completed them and they are “out there” which for me is a significant step toward owning my writing process…

    .Of course, owning one’s writing is very individual process..the key thing is that we do it in whatever way works for each of us.

  5. I suspect it’s often the attitude of other writers that stops some people calling themselves a writer. All too often, even in local writing groups, there is a critical attitude, with a small clique regarded as ‘real’ writers while others are more or less ignored. It’s often the pushy ones who gain access to this clique rather than the ones who strive to make their work better. For many, being ignored like this, their work and achievements dismissed or sidelined, can be a kick in the guts to confidence. And all too often this attitude seems to come about because there is a liking for one genre, e.g. historical fiction which has a large following here, and the work of those writing in other genres not even read.

  6. If more people did what they loved to do the world will be a happier place. Its great the kids in 5th grade learnt in early in life. Thanks for the post.

  7. Okay, I super loved this. Especially because I just recently told myself I’m going to take myself more seriously as a writer, meaning that I’m going to really make time to write every day and try to find a community for support, amongst other things. I think it is so easy to not own your title as a writer because people will look at you and ask, “What do you really do?” But it’s important to take yourself seriously, even when the world won’t. Thank you for sharing and capturing these ideas so articulately!

  8. I’ve been guilty of repeating this same phrase. But you know what, one day I was outside sitting on the campus steps and a former English professor was walking by with a student worker. He introduced me as a writer and I felt so embarrassed. Me a writer? No way! Clearly a Creative Writing degree was what I was after and it scared me to label myself if I couldn’t live up to the title. Now I just write, not worrying about being labeled a “real” writer. I write so I’m a writer, end of discussion. See how easy that was? 🙂 I enjoyed your post.

  9. I really appreciate your enthusiasm and I couldn’t have read this at a better time. Currently I’m editing my first novel and I’m quite certain that it’s a bomb. But that is okay because I have fallen in love with my characters and can’t seem to stop writing about them and therefore I won’t. You nailed it right on the head, “You are a writer. Own it.”
    Thank you!

  10. Some days I feel like a writer, other times I’m just a “storyteller”. Maybe just because I haven’t actually sat down to write lately. I’ve been drawing or thinking about the story.

    I’m debating between longhand or some weird word processor with limited internet.

  11. Recently I ordered some business cards and considered whether I could call myself a writer or an author. I chose author. After all that is the goal, whether someone reads my stuff or not.

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  15. One word: Beautiful!

    Its actually when someone owns something, its gives confidence to their voice and people find it more convincing. There, the learning curve begins. The writer gets better over time.

  16. Pingback: Sharing the article: Own the Title: Writer – Hope For Love Always

  17. Pingback: This is a woman who knows what she’s talking about!! You own it too!! :D – The Library Llama

  18. Pingback: Some great words of encouragement from an author. :). – The Sisters of the Pen

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