Honestly, I am writing this because it’s what I have needed to hear and sometimes that’s the best thing you can write.
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I have been telling stories even before I could write. When my small fingers could barely trace the lines of the alphabet, I dictated my stories of magic and cats and other fantastic things and waited for someone to write them down for me. When I was older, I remember carrying around a mini, red spiral notebook in the front pocket of my backpack that I could flip open at any given moment of inspiration. I kept a journal for every year of my adolescent life. They are filled with many long-winded, less than interesting descriptions of my daily life in elementary and middle school, but that’s okay because it was practice.
When I was a teenager, I had a friend who I thought was just born to be a mathematician. His ability to solve equations with such ease amazed me; I had to know how he did it. He shrugged.
“I just see numbers naturally, like a puzzle to piece together.” He told me, simply.
I did not expect to comprehend his explanation, but I actually nodded in understanding. I suddenly realized that is the way I see words— like organic forms of communication that must search for their interlocking match; like a systematic reaction to the entropy of life.
But even as I continued to grow along with my ability, and even as I chose a major in university that would allow me to write, I never called myself a writer. I never considered the late-night journal entries or the unfinished novels or any of the various notebooks collecting dust reason to call myself a writer. I read countless novels, filling my head with stories I convinced myself I’d never be able to write. The truth is, I was right. I never will be able to write those stories because they have already been told. If, like me, you refuse to call yourself a writer because you will never create the words that made you fall in love with writing, the lines that have spoken to you, the books that have filled you with emotion, then you are selling yourself short.
Not that long ago, in the middle of the sticky and aimless summer that followed my graduation from university, I met a girl at a party I had almost decided not to go to. She said she worked a job to get by, but writing is what she really loved. I nodded, knowingly.
“You’re a writer?” I asked.
She hesitated, her brow furrowed, she searched the room as if for a way out of the answer, and in her silence I recognized myself. My heart ached for her to claim the thing that she loved when it was something I had never even done myself.
“You are a writer,” I told her, before she could reply with the same ambiguities I had already learned to perfect. “Do you write?” I asked her.
“Then you are a writer. You have to own it.”
Who gets to decide that you’re a writer? The real answer is no one but you. You are still a writer when no one is reading your words or even when no one ever has. You are still a writer when you’re taking a break. You are still a writer if your name doesn’t line bookshelves. You are a writer even if you are not an author. You are a writer if you have never felt better understood, have never imagined more clearly, have never felt more tethered to your mind than when are you writing. You are a writer because you can’t quit, even when no one is watching.
The next day, slipped into my bag, I found a small, worn business card a with message scrawled across the front:
“Thank you for calling me a writer.”