How Do You Know If You’re a Writer?

Ah, the question that has plagued humankind since cuneiform was first smudged into clay. It manifests itself into all forms of existential hysteria. Am I really a writer? Does this even matter? Will anyone ever read my work? Maybe I’m just kidding myself. Who do I think I am? I have something to say to you:


Photo Courtesy of Brenna Richardson © 2013


When I first considered pursuing a writing career I spent countless hours trolling around the internet trying to find some failsafe way of proving to myself that I could actually be a writer. I took dumb personality tests. I read about writers my age who’ve published a ton of books and made zillions of dollars. This made me depressed. And it was a complete waste of time.

What was I looking for? Validation. I wanted someone to pre-approve my writing abilities so that I could be confident enough for people to read my writing some day. The problem? 1. I had no writing for anyone to read. 2. I wasn’t practicing my craft. So of course my writing was bad.

If you wonder if you are a writer, then you are one.  Done.

Do you think plumbers go on a soul-quest to learn whether or not their chi alignment is conducive to unclogging toilets all day? No. A plumber chooses to become  a plumber. Then he learns how to plumb by sticking pipes together and running water through them. He either goes to school for it, or he learns from master-plumbers who have gone before.  Are some people naturally gifted in plumbing? I have no idea. Point is, it doesn’t matter either way. If you want to do it, you learn how to do it.

While some people may be naturally gifted, no one is precluded from writing due to size restrictions or genetics. If you want to write, you can. And you should.

So, now what?

I said you were a writer, I didn’t say you were a good one. No question, you could be better. How? Slaughter your mental malaise and laziness, put your butt in a chair, and get to work.  This is how you improve your craft:

1) Commit to it. Stop half-assing your writer life.  You need a full-time commitment to your writing. Serious writing isn’t a fad diet or a meditation technique, it’s a way of life. You’re a professional. Quit screwing around.

2) Write constantly.  Write seven days a week. Blog posts, short stories, novels, anything. Just get words down on the page. This is training. The more you write the better you write.

3) Find time. But, you say, I don’t have time to write. But, I say, if you have time to watch an hour of Family Guy  reruns every week, you do have time to write.  People find time to do the things that matter to them. See step one above.

4) Get your teeth kicked in. Show your writing to non-partial third parties, not friends and family. You need brutal honesty, not tepid pats on the back. Get in a writing group with people who know good writing from bad. You need someone to call you on your crap.

5) Study the Masters. Solomon has informed us that there is nothing new under the sun. That plot turn you’re trying to figure out. That character that has no voice. People have solved these problems before. Also, they are crazy good reads. Don’t stay willingly ignorant.

That’s it. You want to write. Write. Then get better.

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Joshua Rigsby is a writer, tea-drinker, and planet 9 enthusiast based in Southern California.

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