If you always have a notecard and pen with you in case you have an idea, you may be a writer.
If you love office supply stores, or any stores where notebooks and pens are sold, you may be a writer.
If you sit down regularly and make yourself write and go back and edit and rewrite and repeat that a dozen times, you might be a writer.
I don’t remember life without books. Not that I read at age three. But as soon as I acquired the ability to read on my own, I lived in books. My family valued reading, perhaps because we didn’t own a television until I reached twelve-years-old. Prior to that, many evenings found us together as a family, listening to my mother read through the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series.
Saturday trips to town for groceries always began with a stop at the library. I quickly figured out, sitting in the car reading my newly checked out books far outweighed following Mom around the grocery store, especially if she wouldn’t concede to my requests for Cheese Whiz or chocolate sandwich cookies.
Although I loved to read, I don’t recall writing until seventh grade when I received my first creative writing assignment. Thankfully, what I wrote disappeared long ago but that assignment awakened in me a desire to continue writing. It occurred to me I could do for others what those library book authors did for me; open my imagination to a world with endless possibilities.
Soon, my desire to write intersected with my love of sports and I began to plan for a future as a sportswriter. I headed off to college majoring in journalism. I changed course after my sophomore year, answering a call toward ministry, but the desire to write never left.
Unfortunately, along with my desire came a sense of embarrassment. I learned to trust relatively few people with this information. After all, who am I to say I want to be a writer? Sportswriting had given me something to hide behind; people could understand the purpose of that. But calling myself a writer separate from sports seemed farfetched.
I’m seeing now the damage I caused. Primarily, I’ve kept myself from taking writing seriously as a craft, a craft I intend to grow in. I’ve wrongly believed, despite the words of many authors, I cannot call myself a writer until I’ve been paid for it. They say crazy things like, “You’re a writer because you write, not because you’ve been published.”
Recently, I sat as a student in Mary DeMuth’s writing intensive. Driving to class the second day it occurred to me she took every one of us seriously as writers. A part of me expected she would look at my writing and say, “Okay, you’re a nice guy, but not a writer. Go home now.” I realized in that moment if Mary sees me as a serious writer, I need to see myself that way too. I need to believe what I tell my clients; that early childhood dreams and desires often represent the Spirit whispering to us about what he’s made us for.
Taking myself seriously as a writer, at this moment, means I write every day and that I take the craft and improvement of the craft to heart. Following through has meant pulling my copy of The Little Red Writing Book (Brandon Royal, 2004) from the shelf, blowing off the dust, and working through the exercises. I have to. I am a writer. Are you?