Do you call yourself a writer? I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Before I even started school. I used to enter writing competitions, especially poetry, when I was in primary school. I even won a few. I have been blogging since 2001. I have had no issue calling myself a blogger since then. Which is essentially a writer, yet I stayed away from the label. Then, I self-published a children’s picture book in 2015 and a sustainable living book in 2016. In 2 months I will submit my 68,000 word PhD thesis. Yet, I didn’t call myself a writer. It has only been in the last year, after I took an online class in children’s writing with the Australian Writers’ Centre, that I have started to really claim my place as a writer. People used to ask me what I did and there were honestly so many things I did, that it was impossible to explain.
Now, I tell people, “I am a writer.”
It was when I did this, that I discovered the world of the #writingcommunity and now the #AusWrites community, on twitter. I changed my social media handles, created this blog and stepped into my life as a writer. And I have now completed two children’s book manuscripts and have started my third.
I have been part of numerous communities since starting my online journey more than 17 years ago. I was one of the first people in the world to start an online diabetes community, founding a forum, blog and counselling service in 2001, before there was any social media. I embraced Facebook, and not long afterwards, Twitter, to create a place for people with diabetes to connect. I started my sustainable blog in 2013. I have been part of the online sustainability community, the pro-blogger community and the interiors and design community. Now, I find myself part of an incredible international online writing community.
I love all of my online people. But the writing community really understands what life is like for me. They get the hyperfocus that comes across you when you are in the midst of a story. They understand how ideas juggle within you to be born. They feel the rise and fall of love for your own words. They know the terror of putting yourself out there, of sharing your words, closely squashed up against the deep desire for the world to read them. They see me. They hear me. They feel me. What a gift to find these people at this stage of my life. At last.
I see many people writing ‘aspiring’ writer, or ‘soon-to-be’ writer on their social media profile. I see people asking if they can call themselves a writer or an author when they have not had a book published yet.
Here’s the thing – if you write then you are a writer.
Writing is not about being published by a well-known publishing house and getting your book turned into a movie. That might be one of the dreams, but it is not what defines you as a writer. What defines you as a writer is that you write. It is that pull inside your body, the physical one, that urges you to connect your fingers to paper or the keyboard. It is all the thoughts jumbling around inside your mind, that you must get out into the world. It is the feeling that you can not possibly delete any of those words, and yet, you must. It is the way you can become lost in your writing, so deeply, that the rest of the world disappears. It is seeing a colour in the sky, or hearing a bird call on the breeze, or feeling the sea against your toes, or holding the smooth bark of a tree – and knowing all of this is a story. It is wanting to know more – about people, history, the future, the present, how things fit, how things don’t fit, the poetry of words, the way words create pictures, the way pictures create words. It is relishing the writing prompts and challenges to create a story in just 500 words, 50 words, a sentence.
It is the really, really good writing days where you get goosebumps up and down your arms when you read your words back to yourself. It is the horrible writing days when everything that comes out of you is utter crap. It is writing anyway. It is walking around in a daydream because you are plotting. It is waking in the middle of the night from a dream, knowing this is another story. It is words and people and places and stories.
It is writing. You are writing. You are a writer.
Join the #AusWrites crew on twitter and also look for the many other tags such as #writingcommunity #amwriting and more – just come find us, and write the damn words.