How do you define yourself? Do you define yourself by what you like, what you do, or what you accomplish? Maybe you define yourself by something else entirely.
When it comes to writing, I define myself as a writer with a lowercase “w” instead of an uppercase one. Dictionary.com offers the following definitions of “writer”:
1 a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.
2 a clerk, scribe, or the like.
3 a person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing: an expert letter writer.
4 (in a piece of writing) the author (used as a circumlocution for “I,” “me,” “my,” etc.):The writer wishes to state….
5 a person who writes or is able to write: a writer in script.
For me, a “Writer” (capital W) is defined by 1, 2, and 4, while a “writer” (lowercase w) is defined by 3 and 5. I hold the distinction in my head, but separating the two only serves the purpose of diminishing what I do. I could say I’m not an active writer, but I actively write here. If someone asks, I don’t say “I’m a writer” because it doesn’t feel authentic. Instead, I say “I write.” Writing is something that I do quite often, but I’m not an author with a collection of published pieces, and I’m certainly no expert letter writer, so I often don’t feel like a writer.
What is it that makes you feel like a writer? For me, it’s writing consistently, writing good things, and completing projects. Getting published makes me feel like a “real writer,” but, generally, I feel like a writer when I’m being consistent. Not being able to get my thoughts onto paper, not finishing stories, not submitting stories, not having a writing routine… those things make me feel like less of a writer.
So what do we do about it?
First, we have to find our groove! Think back to when you last felt like a writer, or when you felt most like a writer. What did that look like? Think about what it looked like physically, but also what state of mind you were in, what habits you were practicing, what your schedule was like. What were you doing then that is different now? Now, think about what you need in order to regain that positive writing space.
Second, take it slow and be gentle with yourself. Things may have changed drastically since you were last in a place where you were writing consistently. You may never be able to get back to the same place, but what can you adapt and shift going forward to get you into the right writing space? Don’t punish yourself for slipping, stalling, delaying, avoiding… whatever it is that has prevented you from writing like you want to be writing. Give yourself grace for not being able to do everything. None of us can do everything.
Lastly, be intentional about setting time aside to write. It can be five minutes at the end of your work day, jotting down notes in your phone, it can be a quick journaling session before bed, it can be an hour in the mornings before breakfast… whatever you have the time to do; whatever you think you can maintain. It doesn’t even have to be every day when you first start. Go slow. It takes time to build good habits, especially ones that require us to stop and focus on one thing at a time.
I am putting some of these things into practice myself. Last week I wrote two (very) short stories using some writing prompts. One was really, very bad, and the other was… a little less bad. I’ve been out of practice, but even when I was writing regularly, they stories weren’t all good. As the stories get better, I intend to share some of them here.
In the meantime, let me know how you intend to further develop your writing practice.