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Must writers write?

That may seem like a dumb question…but I wonder about the claims of many that if you do not write every day, indeed, feel compelled to write all of the time, that you are not really a “writer.” Obviously practice helps and all that. But need someone be constantly writing to consider herself a bona fide writer?

And where do we draw the line? If one writes every day — no matter how short a time — one is a writer? Or do we say that what one writes must be “creative” and come flowing from the pen in moments of pure inspiration? What about those who write permission slips and letters to the editor and handouts for their students and letters of recommendation for colleagues?

How do people decide: “I’m a writer”? Is it hard to identify oneself as such or do people just “know”? Can one write and publish and NOT consider oneself a “writer”?

I would love to hear what people think of this….

5 Responses

  1. That is definitely not a dumb question. I have asked myself this question many times, all the “writers” I know have asked themselves this question. A writer writes, or feels compelled to write, whether it’s for one story or project or for a lifetime. I think I would answer yes to all of your questions. And also no. haha! In my experience, you can have a very similar discussion substituting “writer” with “artist.” There can be a lot of ego attached to identifying as a writer (or artist). I know I have gotten caught up in it at times! Lately, I am specific about what I am working on, and try to avoid the pictures and judgements that come with saying “I am a writer.” And then I laugh at myself, out loud, even. Thanks for your post!

  2. I think it’s not a must for writers to write all the time. You just write when you are inspired to. When you are not, time to scout around a little and absorb the world as inspiration.

    But then again, setting a daily writing time is good to keep the skills going.

  3. Cmate: glad to hear you say that you don’t think it’s a must. I seem to be going through a READING phase right now. I just want to read all the time. Can’t really do that, but I’d rather read than write at present. Maybe the reading will “inspire” me soon! Thanks for the post!

    Christina: Interesting point about there being “ego attached to identifying as a writer” and I guess I am cautious about it because I am a lit prof in my Day Job. So I guess I feel a bit intimidated by “real writers.” I mean, who can compete with Dickens? Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. Makes me feel a little less alone!

  4. I think “the world” considers you a writer if you can earn a living doing it, and they can buy your book at Barnes and Noble.

    Me, I think you’re a writer if you write. That’s it. I’m also not one of those ones who would feel empty if I didn’t write. However, I enjoy writing and especially entertaining people with my writing. I write because I want to write, not because I’m compelled.

    Do I consider myself a writer? That is a more difficult question for me.

  5. Hi, strugglingwriter!

    Interesting response. So the fact that I have a book and articles published makes me a writer in the world’s eyes, even though it’s writing about other writers and not the great American novel? Or do you mean only fiction counts for “the world”?

    When I was a kid, I used to love to write. I thought I had talent. My fifth-grade teacher told me so. Eventually, I became an English professor and through that process of grad school and “normalization” to the profession, I learned to be a “critic” of writing.

    Trick now is for me to get back to writing as a joyful act. I’ve experienced glimmers of that in the past 20 years, but until this sabbatical never felt like I had the opportunity to really go with it.

    With a name like strugglingwriter it looks like however ambivalent you feel, you do identify as a writer….

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