I can tell you you’re a writer, and your bff, mother, or creative writing teacher can tell you you’re a writer. But that doesn’t count for anything. That uncertainty about whether or not writing is the thing or your thing, whether or not you’re really “called” to do it, “driven” to do it, etc., is all the inner gremlin. It just is. It’s the voice of doubt and fear masquerading as a logical, practical mind-friend helping you not to waste time.
For example: If writing were your thing, you’d wake up with fully formed stories in your brain and bluebirds would remove your nightdress and usher you into your writing sweater. The friendly cat would rub your ankles and nudge you to your gold-plated writing chair where with ink and parchment or blood and rice paper, you would let flow all the fully formed, writerly thoughts that would bring instant fame and gratification.
Or, if you really had a passion, surely you wouldn’t hem and haw or see and saw or procrastinate or start and stop or leave things unfinished. Surely, if writing were what you were called to do, you wouldn’t go months and days and weeks and hours without writing and you wouldn’t feel like you had to push yourself or make yourself do it. If you loved it, you would be doing it.
That is all self-doubt, commonly known as the inner critic. By now, your mid-40’s, or your mid-20’s or late 70’s, you know you have a way with words. You’ve impressed enough customers, friends, relatives, etc., by your ability to craft a well-turned phrase or disarm someone with wit. Not knowing if it’s your thing is really just fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that you won’t be good enough. Fear that you’re not far enough along.
You have much to say. You have a unique way of saying it. All of your characters will be you at least a little, at least at the beginning. You are protecting your squishy milk-chocolate center with a hard candy coating of “I’m not sure I should be writing.” But you have something to say or you wouldn’t be reading this.
Or, you’ve already written many things but not submitted. Or submitted but haven’t been published. Or published but not by a “real” publisher. Is this you? Moving the measuring stick as soon as you reach it? Or maybe not finishing things. Filing them away in the drawer or on a bad day, in the trash.
It isn’t perfect. It can stand a good edit. It is emotional, evocative, descriptive, intriguing, surprising. Don’t be a chicken. It’s time to do some writing every day or five days a week or one weekend every month or whatever works in your life.
Most “real” writers aren’t all called to write. They make themselves write. If I’ve read anything consistent in all the different methods of world-famous writers that is it. They force themselves to go to the desk, cafe, kitchen table, etc. No bluebirds drop a quill in their itchy palms then dart out of the way of their brilliance. They commit to skipping The Good Wife until they hit the 750 word mark. They cancel lunch with their friends and keep the bottle of wine chilled until they end that chapter.
OK – I realize now I’m ranting….but I had to call you out on the “not sure” thing. You say it comes and goes. Hmmm – is it possible that it comes when you’re actually writing and goes when you’re actually not? If so, you’re not alone.
I found that I had all this longing surrounding writing. I wanted to know that I had talent or that I could write or that it was just a pipe dream. So I started keeping a mental accounting of when I felt least fraudulent or most like a writer….and I had an epiphany.
I felt most like a writer not when I saw my name in a magazine, not when my uber-talented sister told me I was brilliant and not when I got a laugh sharing a piece in a workshop. I felt most like a writer during the act of writing. If I was sitting at my laptop typing or with a notebook and a pen and words were coming out of my fingers – I felt like a writer.
Now it’s much less dangerous and we’re less vulnerable when we’re thinking about writing or talking about writing or any of the activities that aren’t really writing. To quote Amy Poehler “The talking about the thing isn’t the thing.The doing of the thing is the thing.”
Don’t wonder or wait for any kind of confirmation that it is your passion. Just do it passionately and you will have your answer. From the outside looking in, I know you haven’t been able to live without it for very long. If that’s not the definition of a calling I don’t know what is.
Thanks for listening. Now go write something. Start here…send me a note.