No idea who first said it, but someone said: “If you write, you’re a writer.” It wasn’t a conscious decision filled with tedium and angst. I picked up a pencil, learned my alphabet, and have been part of the writer’s club since first grade. My first stories all fall into the haunted house genre. Ghosts, friends dying or disappearing, and an ever increasing series of rooms. I told the story “Winchester” with the same stakes, except sometimes my characters didn’t survive. So better and told by a child, I guess I was too ahead of my time to rake in all that Hollywood money. At least I have creative satisfaction?
I’m mentioning this anecdote because a common writers’ blog question is “when did you decide you wanted to be a writer?” Is telling stories a choice for some people? Like is anyone in a room saying “I’m about to have an amazing idea for a story, but I need to get a jump on quantum mechanics so hard pass on inspiration.” Or are these people like “my dream was to be a plumber, but damn the money and security of writing is so tempting, I quit my trade school despite all the people encouraging me to follow my passion.”
The other thing I love about “when did you take the plunge to become a writer?” is the implication that a person stopped being anything else as soon as they choose writing. Yes Bob, I was a student, but Mrs. Williams asked me to write a story and I enjoyed it so much that I decided screw it, I’m a writer now! Or Wendy was a stay at home mom but then she started moonlighting as a blog content creator. Now her kids are in the orphanage, aspiring to write a compelling enough version of their life that maybe their mother will acknowledge them creatively even if she had to abandon them for the work.
The framing implies everyone who writes should have the one goal: to make writing a full-time profession and excludes the reality of most writers. It’s a passion we pursue around our lives, not a career we move towards single minded. And props to the rare, lucky, privileged few who make writing a full-time gig. I don’t mean to erase this group, I just think they’re a minority.
A more apt question in my perspective: “Was there ever a time you weren’t a writer or didn’t want to write?” Or even better “How big a part of your identity is writing and are there times where you feel it over grows its boundaries?”
None of the writers I know have a “and that’s when I realized I was a writer story” but most of them have “and that’s when I realized I’d gone too far,” or “now when I have time, there’s no writing,” anecdotes.
What about you? Is “when did you become a writer?” a meaningful question? Are there times you wish you weren’t a writer? Is writing enough validation of your career/hobby or do you only thing published writers have a claim to the title?