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April 2018

Writerly Life

Who is a real writer?

April 13, 2018

When I was around 12 years old I started scribbling stories in my notebooks. The books on my shelf didn’t quelch my desire for made up worlds filled with adventure.

The stories appeared in my head and I wrote them down so that I could read them later. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. And it never crossed my mind to ask for permission. I was playing and at 12 you’re very good at playing.

First it was notebooks, but as the stories grew I started writing them on the computer. This was back when the internet connection cost by the minute. (a blessing in disguise).  But it wasn’t until I was 27 I dared write the word “writer” next to my name. And I was trembling and sweating and felt like hiding under a blanket. 

You see between 12 and 27 I fell into a trap and I almost killed the writer in me. So many encounters that pushed me the wrong way… but here are a few I remember. 

  • The creative writing teacher in high school that didn’t want to read my novel. He gave me a bad grade because I missed a a few morning classes (I had been up at night writing my novel). 
  • The boyfriend that told me to give my manuscript to his friend. Then proceeded to laugh at my efforts and state “you can’t be a writer”. (The friend never said anything to me about the manuscript I had trusted her to read).
  • The gazillion people that told me writing isn’t a real job. 
  • The people that say “but have you PUBLISHED anything?” 
  • Stupid definitions of a writer in various mediums. The Swedish Writer’s association for instance demands two published books for admission. There is, no joke, a numerical definition tied to the publishing industry. Talk about narrowing the needles head.

 Shame.

It’s all about shame. I don’t know why people like to impose shame on each other but there it was. The teacher that didn’t want to accept that I had a complete manuscript at 17. The boyfriend that didn’t know to acknowledge my efforts. All these rules and definitions we want.

Why do we need a defintion? A definition gives us a possibility of validation, of acknowledgement. We want to be on the other side of longing because we have this misconception that writing is binary.

You either are or aren’t.

Let me tell you something I’ve learned over the past 15 years. 

Everybody is a storyteller. All humans under the sun are storytellers. I challenge you to find one that isn’t. A writer is simply one of these storytellers gracious enough to let the story exist outside of him or her.

Don’t ask; who is a real writer, ask why you’re not calling yourself a writer and when you plan on doing so. 

Ask yourself about your beliefs. Where do your ideas about writing come from and why you are letting them shape you on your journey?

Because if you write, your business is not to think about who is and isn’t a writer, your business is to keep writing. It’s to give life to stories that can surpass you.

The urge to exclude people exists everywhere in society. It stems from a belief of scarcity. As if someone else’s success limits one’s own chances of success. 

That’s not how it works.

Writing is many things. But it’s never excluding.