It may shock you that once upon a time, I would not claim the title of writer, even when I was literally being paid to write news and analysis stories for a legal publisher.
Such are the irrational fears and beliefs of many writers’ emotional landscapes.
In my head, “writers” were these magically cool unicorns who wrote fiction. Or possibly really funny essays. They certainly did not read cases and write up summaries of them. The probably didn’t write news analysis pieces, complete with interviews and sources and all. If ever they had done those things, they were talented enough to move on quickly to something interesting, fun, lyrical.
You could say that I had some highly interesting ideas about being a writer. They were all pretty much complete garbage, and they also kept me feeling stuck and depressed.
What That Desire To Write Really Means
Here’s the thing I learned eventually: If you have some secret, unspoken, or even admitted desire to be a writer, you’re meant to pursue that.
Maybe that means you find a job as a writer. Or maybe you write outside of work. Or a combination. It doesn’t really matter, as far as being a writer is concerned.
The thing that makes you a writer is pretty simple: You write words. There’s no need to pick apart whether your words are good, or what’s your motivation to write, or whether you can make a living as a writer. If you want to write, and you write words, you are a writer.
Now, a lot of you may want to be a writer, but aren’t writing words at the moment. And you may think that means you don’t really want to be a writer. Maybe you even think that if you wanted to write badly enough, you just would; the fact that you aren’t writing regularly, or semi-regularly, is evidence you’re not meant to be a writer.
Well, sorry, you’re not off the hook.
As a group, writers are a sensitive bunch. (Ernest Hemingway is just a weird outlier.) That sensitivity is part of what makes writers who they are. Writers, like other artists, are the ones who see things differently than most, who feel things more intensely, and have a weird curiosity about oddball things. They are often very, very smart, too. They usually have a gift of deep insight. And they notice things that most people blast right past.
Of course, I cannot begin to list all the traits of a writer, because writers come in all kinds of odd and fascinating packages. So if I haven’t described you yet, please don’t say to yourself that you must not be a writer!
Why Aren’t You Writing?
A common part of the writer’s package is fear, and some highly unpleasant, or even traumatic, life experiences from childhood. If that’s true for you, the crap that happened to you before now may be silencing your voice.
Your law job may be silencing your voice. In fact, I’d place a small bet on that, and I don’t even know you.
The most likely culprit behind your lack of writing is some monster from your past or present, which has tricked you into believing you have nothing worthwhile to say. That’s complete bullshit, of course.
But if that realization alone doesn’t free you, it might be worth exploring the origins of that fear in your life, and unearthing the dynamics that keep you silent. Because now more than ever, we need voices to say the things that need saying.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer and a writer, among other things. She coaches unhappy lawyers on getting started writing, along with finding the work that fulfills them, whether it’s writing or something else. You can schedule an appointment by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.