Earlier this evening there was a tweet going around, linking to “8 Signs That You Were Meant to Be a Writer.” Of course I clicked over to read the eight signs. I like to see how predictable I am sometimes.
Sadly, I didn’t really like the list and explanations. It’s not that they were wrong, necessarily, but it was all sort of drippy and sappy and the explanations for each item were not really explanations at all. It talked about things like secret dreams (about writing) and excuses (for writing instead of doing other things) and yearning (to write). Which is not to say that these things are NOT signs that you were meant to be a writer. I’m not trashing the article. However, I believe the interpretations were slightly off the mark and I have re-interpreted them in what I think are more realistic terms here.*
1. Secret Dreams. Yes, writers have secret dreams. Sometimes they are even about writing. More often they are about quitting the day job, writing the next breakout novel, or even just getting something published so that your family and friends will stop calling you a “writer” in quotation marks and you can stop feeling guilty about all that money you spent on books, workshops, and computer software for writers.
2. Doubt. Absolutely. Doubt is always sticking its head in at the door and saying “Excuse me, loser, but I thought you should know that last paragraph you wrote is absolutely dreadful, that character is so wooden you should name him Pinocchio, and the plot is so full of holes that you could strain jelly through it.” Is doubt a sign that you’re meant to be a writer? Maybe. Because a lot of people who obviously aren’t meant to be writers don’t seem to have any doubt about it at all.
3. Excuses. I have to do laundry. I have to clean the house. I have to make cookies for the school bake sale. I have to exercise now. I have to scour the bathroom cupboards with an old toothbrush and then paint the barn. I have to redesign my website. I have to use social media for the next four hours to promote my writing career. Okay, excuses: check.
4. Inspiration. If you were meant to be a writer, you probably have a love/hate relationship with inspiration. You know that you can’t always wait for it, and that you must learn to work without it or create your own. But it does come to you at times. Usually when you’re driving on a four-lane highway, taking kids to a birthday party, having an emergency meeting with your boss, or giving birth.
5. Perfectionism. If you’re meant to be a writer, perfectionism will always occur in inverse proportion to the amount that is required in a given situation. You’ll think your sucky first draft is good enough and send it to an editor when it’s still so rough it will scratch the editor’s eyeballs. On the other hand, you’ll rewrite, edit, tweak and polish your novel so much in search of perfection that it will start to wear thin and you’ll never send it out.
6. Admiration. You’ll admire other writers, of course. You’ll admire their writing style, their relationship with their adoring fans, their ability to support themselves with their writing, and the wonderful way they “pay it forward” by taking fledgling writers (not you, of course) under their wing and helping THEM become successful, too. Oh, wait. I was thinking of jealousy.
7. Lacking. When you don’t write, you feel like something is missing. But sometimes when you do write, you also feel like something is missing, because it was something you were supposed to do (go to work? feed the kids?) during the time you spent writing. You could end up lacking a job, a family, or a place to live. Oops. Yes, lacking is often a large part of being a writer.
8.Yearning. Yearning to write. Didn’t we cover this in number 1? And possibly number 7 as well? Okay, yes, writers have yearnings. To write, and sometimes to not write. To find perfection, and sometimes to have someone come in and just fix the whole damn mess for you, slap your name on it and call it a day. To have an unlimited supply of chocolate and caffeine, a brilliant idea, and an all-expenses paid week-long writing retreat? Yearning. Oh yeah.
So…are you meant to be a writer? If you’ve read this far, it’s quite probable, because you’re likely supposed to be editing that novel right now…
*Sometimes I write things that I think are funny. If you don’t agree, you don’t have to tell me about it. Just move along, folks, move along.