I quit writing this year.
Not on purpose. It was definitely not on purpose. Unlike my friend J. Edward Paul, who gives up writing every other day and is only lured back to it by the fact that his stories are simply bursting out of his skull, I quit quite by accident and it took me a while to realize I was no longer a writer. In fact, I kept calling myself a writer long after I had ceased to be one, and it’s only been recently that I’ve faced up to the fact that I am no longer a writer.
My sister told me yesterday that, despite the fact that she’s very good at art, enjoys making art, and has studied art for many years, she does not currently consider herself an artist. “An artist is someone who makes art on a regular basis,” she said. By this definition, she argued, she is not an artist.
So, too, is a writer someone who writes on a regular basis.
I am not a writer.
I was, a few months ago. I wrote quite regularly. Every day, even. I couldn’t imagine myself not writing. I wrote some mornings before work. I always wrote after work. I wrote blog posts, I wrote short stories, I wrote poems, I edited my TBR-novel (it’s since been released), I wrote in my journal, I wrote letters.
Then I stopped.
In my defense, a lot of things got in the way. My workload at the winery doubled. I met someone new. My sister and I moved in together, and started a life together, which included much more cooking, gym visits, housecleaning, and grocery shopping than I had ever previously done. The holidays happened. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, my birthday. Between all of these things, I have had an immensely fulfilling few months and I am not in the least bit upset about the way any of this has turned out.
But during that whole time, I’ve written nothing more than a few introspective journal entries and a chapter or two of a novel draft. I stopped writing. Therefore, I am not a writer.
This, of course, is a short-term problem. I can become a writer again quite easily, as you might imagine. Just by writing this blog article, I’m taking a positive step back towards the ability to call myself a writer.
Because, you see, much in the same way as prayer, meditation, sports, art, or academic study, writing is a devotional act. You cannot be a writer unless you write. You cannot be an artist unless you make art. You cannot be a basketball player unless you play basketball. It just doesn’t make sense. Writing, like any craft, like an pursuit of excellence, requires devotion. You must do it regularly. You must do it with passion. You must do it with the same fervor you eat, breathe, and experience the world around you.
If you want to be a writer, whether amateur, freelance, professional, ghost, or National Book Award prize winner, follow these simple steps to success: