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The Mark of a “Real Writer”

“I’m not a real writer, but….”

“Well, I can’t really say I’m a writer.”

“I wouldn’t call myself a writer…”

It’s amazing how many actual writers will say that, even if they’ve been working on a manuscript for years. Even if they have a full draft they’ve read over and edited and had other people look over for them and then re-edited.

No matter how much writing they’ve done, they’re still quick to claim, “Oh, I’m not a writer.”

I suppose that kind of humility is better than its opposite – utter arrogance in the writerly realm. Maybe. Perhaps it’s just less obnoxious.

Humility is all well and good. In fact, it’s very well and good. But there’s a difference between humility and delusion. So let’s spell it out right now:

If you’re actively working on writing a story, you’re a real writer. A creative writer, to be exact.

If you’re actively working on writing a memoir or other non-fiction manuscript, you’re a real writer too.

Maybe you’re not the strongest writer or the most experienced. Maybe you’re not the most successful or popular one.

But you’re still a writer. A real one.

Contrary to popular thought, the label “writer” or “creative writer” doesn’t mean “amazingly adept at every aspect of the writing world.” If you look up definitions of these terms, you’re not going to find:

  • Nails a first draft every time

  • Is universally loved and lauded for everything they produce – without exception

  • Never has any self-doubts about what they put down on paper

  • Never experiences writer’s block

  • Is always ready to write instead of collapsing on the sofa with a microwaved meal and the remote.

That’s just not how it works.

First off, getting good at writing is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight, even for those people naturally born with the inclination to shun society and constantly make up stories.

I know this one for a fact.

Moving up the list, writer’s block happens. It’s frustrating, yes, but it doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. Most “real writers” do at one point or another, if not many.

The mark of knowing whether you’re a “real writer” or not is how you deal with it.

The same applies to having self-doubts about your manuscript or your abilities. Self-doubts are part of being human. And since writers are human, this is obviously not a disqualifying factor to being a "real writer."

Speaking of being human, there’s not a single person on the planet at any time in history who could ever claim they were universally loved.

Nobody. And since writers fall into the “somebody” category, that means their chances of being unquestionably adored aren’t looking so great.

Some people will like your work. Some might even love it. Some might hate it.

Welcome to life.

Life, which is full of days when we just don’t feel motivated to do anything. Days where we have no idea what we’re doing, saying or being. Days where we can’t seem to please anyone.

So naturally, our first drafts – composed over days and days and days of going through life being human – aren’t going to be perfect. They might even be downright abysmal.

What makes a real writer is this: the act of getting back up and going back to the writing process.

If that’s what you do, you’re simply not allowed to say stuff like, “I’m not a real writer” or “Well, I can’t really say I’m a writer” or “I wouldn’t call myself a writer.”

You write. Therefore you are.

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