I 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.