spine poetryHow we spend our days is who we are. Or maybe it’s how we’d like to spend our days. And while some people measure their credibility with degrees, workshops and residencies, or publishing credits, here’s a list of my own criteria to help you decide if you’re a “real writer.”

  1. You feel naked without a notebook and pen. Worse, you find yourself isolated and scribbling away at parties, family gatherings, and work meetings.
  2. You read like you’re holding an X-acto knife, ready to carve out anything useful or impressive, so that you can study techniques and strategies.
  3. You study book releases and NYT Best Seller’s lists the way a fisherman studies his tide charts. Knowing where trends are moving toward, or away from, is critical as you pin yourself and your work to the shifting literary map.
  4. The favorites bar on your web browser has links to GalleyCat, Theseaurus.com, Fake Name Generator, word frequency counter, or Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips. Whether you’re looking for the perfect word, the perfect name, or the proper use of lay vs. lie, you’ve placed these sites at your fingertips.
  5. You belong to a writers’ group or guild, like Association of Writers and Writing Programs, The Author’s Guild, Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators, or a local group.
  6. You have read your work out loud in front of audiences, with or without Ativan.
  7. You won’t answer the telephone when it rings, but you’ll send multi-paragraph text messages composed with complex sentences, anecdotes, and allusions.
  8. On trips you pack more books and notebooks than changes of clothing. You are not distressed by wearing the same shirt twice, but completely lost if you run out of things to read.
  9. You have 7 tall bookshelves and it’s still not enough.
  10. You write daily, even if some of it consists of beautifully described journal entries and grocery lists.
  11. You measure success of your day by word counts.
  12. You talk about other writers and books as if they are members of your own family.

Consider yourself a writer if 3 or more on the list accurately describe you. And please share your own favorite signs in the comments below.


7 thoughts on “How Do You Know If You Are a Real Writer?

  1. Excellent. I don’t do all of these, but many. And I’m just about to join the Author’s Guild. If you named it 12 ways to know if you are a real writer, you might get more action. People are nuts for numbers in the title “4 ways to…” I haven’t written anything using that formula, but it’s about time I try.

    • Elaine,
      That is great advice. I will use that approach for my next blog list. Do you have any ways of your own that measure your status as a “real writer?”

      • I have an inner drive to improve my writing. It never fades, no matter how tired I am or how much the computer hassles me. I want to articulate and communicate what matters to me for myself and others. I love the deep writer/reader connection.

        • Writers have to write it seems, even when tired and technology fails. It’s that need to connect to readers and show them the world you love. When you share these experiences, reader and writer together, your lives are joined in a unique way. My favorite writers sometimes feel like family.

  2. Oh no! Only 4 out of the 12. The awful truth is coming out. I’m being discovered for the fraud I am. Don’t tell anyone PLEASE. (I’m not really a writer after all). But I still love to write.

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