Be Writing, Not just a Writer

“Don’t be a ‘writer’, be writing”. I love and hate Faulkner’s famous advice.

I hate it because I know he’s right and I haven’t been writing much lately. Between craziness at work, home life, and my business- I am have almost no energy to be creative. At least, that is the excuse I’ve been making for myself. I have a million ideas in my head. I have story-lines, characters, and plots all shuffling through my head most nights. But, by the time morning comes- I’m running from task to task and place to place until I spend the evening burnt out on the couch reading WebToons.

If a writer, by definition, writes- then what am I?

I used to call myself a writer, but I don’t write anymore. I plan, I dream, but I don’t put words to the page anymore. Even writing these blog posts are become less frequent as days pass by. The time and effort I put towards writing is now put towards recovering from my day. It seems that I have become more of a “worker” or a “planner” than a “writer”. I’d say I don’t know how it came to this, but I do. I have watched myself slowly go down this path for a few years now. First there was college, where the label of “student” took priority. Now my career is thriving and the patronizing label “boss babe” has been used to describe my success. But I haven’t felt or acted like a “writer” since the sweet spot between graduation and my promotion, when my job was just a job, and my evenings could be spent with words.

Becoming a Writer is easier said than done.

Who knows this fact better than writers themselves? The advice to “just write” isn’t as easy to follow as it may seem. Sure, writing is not physically demanding- but it demanding in other ways. The soul-searching, mind-expanding, heart-wrenching work of writers is mentally and emotionally exhausting, and time intensive. The common struggle for writers is to find the time, energy, and inspiration to create something worthwhile, as it is rare to have all three ingredients at the same time. In those magic moments, it’s easy to call yourself a writer. But, when you go weeks, months, or even years without that creative flow- you only feel like a fraud playing a part. Can I be a writer if I never get published? Can I be a writer if I only write outlines? Can I be a writer, if—? The bigger those doubts become, the harder it is to write. Soon, you find that you can’t bring yourself to write at all.

Who Decides if you are a writer?

The good and bad news is you get to be the one who decides what you are. If you want to call yourself a writer, no one can stop you! But, from my personal experience, as well as conversations I’ve had with other hobbyists, is that most of us are very reluctant to take up the label for ourselves. We will beat around the bush by saying “I enjoy writing”, or “It’s just a hobby”, or “I’m not a real writer”- as if the title of “writer” is something we have to have bestowed upon us in an elaborate ceremony. What are we waiting for? A publication? An award? An engraved invitation from an official guild of writer’s that cordially invites you to their club? That’s no reason we can’t call ourselves “writers” if we love to write! And so, we circle back to the issue at hand: Faulkner’s advice to be writing instead of a writer.

I am trying to find the right balance.

I still struggle to call myself a writer because it is not how I earn my bread. It’s not something I do daily anymore, and it’s not how what most people know me as. But I am writing. I am writing, I am plotting, I am drafting, and I am dreaming. It’s been put on the back burner for a time, but it’s never been forgotten. Like a pot of soup simmering on the stove, my love of writing will be just as hearty and delicious when it’s time to partake. As long as I keep and eye on the burner, and give the pot a stir now and then, I can be sure that my writing will still be there when I’m ready.

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