Who’s A Writer, Anyway?

Do you consider yourself a writer?

Whatever your answer is – yes, no, -ish? – this post is for you.

I don’t consider myself a writer. I never have. Which is entertaining, considering that I’m now embarking on the Write 100 Challenge for the second time, but more about that later.

I have a very specific mental definition of a writer:

writer, n.: a person who writes fiction or poetry, who has a long form project, who is part of a writers’ group where people critique their work, or whose life goals include publishing their work

I have multiple talented and dedicated friends who fulfill these criteria. I, on the other hand, don’t write fiction or poetry, I’ve never written long form, and other than peer-review assignments in college I’ve never had someone else critique my work. Obviously, publishing is so not on my radar because I have nothing to publish.

Ergo, I’m not a writer.

This in spite of the facts that I have filled a couple dozen journals over the years, I maintain a ridiculously extensive written correspondence, and I blog. I drool over office supplies, and I would love to own a typewriter so I could have the speed of typing without the distraction of a screen. Oh, and I completed an undergrad degree in English Literature, which you’d better believe included a LOT of writing.

Perhaps my definition of what it means to be a writer needs to change. Does yours?

Something I learned through the first Write 100 Challenge is that whether or not I fit into my own definition, I am a writer. I joined the challenge on a whim, and I had no clue what I was doing. But I did it. And I’m taking up the challenge again. (I still don’t know what I’m doing.) But whether I know what I’m doing or not, let’s face it: anyone who is crazy enough to commit to writing for 100 days in a row is a writer. 

Hmmm. Maybe I have my new definition:

writer, n.: a person crazy enough to commit to write for 100 days in a row

Yes, it’s silly, but I also think there’s something to it. Maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as a writer, but the idea of the Write 100 Challenge gripped you as it did me when I first encountered it last March. You laughed it off at first, but kept circling back to it – intrigued, excited, possibly apprehensive. You committed to doing it and now, just a few days in, you’re wondering what on earth possessed you. Or you haven’t committed yet, but your curiosity is peaked enough that you’re reading the blog posts.

If that’s you, I’m here to tell you that’s absolutely ok. Normal, even. This kind of commitment is a stretch for even the most experienced writers. It’s supposed to be challenging – and exhilarating, and explorative. It’s a learning experience.

Let me tell you what I learned after having one Write 100 Challenge under my belt. You don’t have to be comfortable calling yourself a writer to participate in Write 100. You don’t have to have plans for a project or a desire to share your work with other people. All you have to do is love putting words together on a page and be dedicated about doing it.

In my mind, that’s the heart of what it means to be a writer:

writer, n.: a person who loves stringing words together in written form and actually does it

That is who the challenge is for – and the beauty of it is that this definition stretches to fit those of us who would never claim to be writers as well as those who are working on their third novel. We’re all in this together.

And one last thing: I have this nagging inkling that the people I admire as “real” writers (in the sense of my original definition) probably have many days when they wonder whether they’re the real deal. Whether this whole writing thing is just a pipe dream, whether they have what it takes.

If that’s you – if your friends all think of you as a writer, but you sometimes think it’s all a sham, let me tell you something. Imposter syndrome is a real thing. And just because you feel like an imposter doesn’t mean you are one.

Do you love stringing words together in written form? Do you actually sit down to do it? Then even on your worst days, when you feel like every word you write is nonsense or you’re at a complete loss, you’re a writer.

Own it. No excuses. No ifs, ands, or buts. No pointing to the people who seem to have their writing act together and clearly are “real” writers.

Sit down and do your thing. Write. That’s what writers do.

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IMG_4401Kate has always thought of herself as more of a reader than a writer, but she’s slowly learning to step into her long-standing bent toward writing. (The first Write 100 Challenge was a great kick in the pants.) A 2017 graduate of Wheaton College, she currently lives in Munich, where she teaches English to rambunctious German teenagers. In her spare time she reads, explores Europe, and blogs at The Wilds of Wonder.

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