Owning the Title of Writer

By: Michelle Gunnin

I am a writer.  I did not always believe that statement.  In fact, it took a “real” writer calling me that before I would finally receive it.  Even then I resisted calling myself a writer because I didn’t feel like one.  I felt like a dabbler, a hobbyist, and a wanna-be.  I’m not sure why it is that we pull back from owning it and speaking the truth of it.  I had no problem saying, “I love to write,” but saying “I AM a writer,” seemed so unreachable, like I was claiming to be something I am not.  By definition, a writer is simply one who writes.  It shouldn’t be that hard to say, should it? Yet, our picture of what a “real” writer looks like prevents us from being who we are meant to be.  In my mind, a real writer had to get paid, had to have a book published, and had to be known for writing.  It never occurred to me that to have all of that, you have to start, and in order to start, you have to own the title.  Otherwise, you will not see yourself as a writer.  It is kind of like, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”  Do you write to become a writer, or are you a writer first – so then you write? How you answer that question determines the all-important view you have of yourself and your craft.

I journaled from the time I was a child. I wrote to process my life.  It was for me alone.  When I was in my thirties, I had to write a monthly newsletter for my job.  I quickly ran out of things to say, so in the midnight hour in desperation, one month, I grabbed my journal and picked an entry that seemed kind of generic and broad enough to be put out to the public.  I was bleary-eyed and tired, so I pushed the print button without too much self-analysis.  If I had not been so tired I would have talked myself out of it; instead, I put the papers out and had an overwhelming response.  I was shocked that anyone would want to read what I had written.  It made me wonder if there was anything else on my shelves of journals that might be good enough to print.  I started putting in a regular piece each month, each with a similar response.  This gave me the courage to submit to our local newspaper from time to time on issues in our community.  Once again, I got a good response.  Still, I was flabbergasted as to how this was happening.  One week the editor of the newspaper changed my bio from what I had submitted.  Instead of saying, “Michelle Gunnin is a mother of four, director of a preschool, etc.…”  He added, “Michelle Gunnin is a writer, a mother of four, director of a preschool.”  For an editor to add that word next to my name made my heart beat faster!  Could it be that it was true?  Until that moment, I had never seen myself as a writer.  I had never even considered it, but suddenly there it was in black and white, beside my name.  It was an epiphany.

I share my story to tell you…YOU are a writer.  You are one who writes.  It is as simple as that.  Get that image of what a “real” writer looks like out of your head. Replace it instead with a picture of yourself.  It may be in your pajamas, with kids running everywhere, and you sitting typing at the table.  It may be in the evening after a long day at the office, sitting in your chair with pencil in hand.  It may be in a library study carol between classes.  This is what “real” writers look like.  They are people who work their love of words and expression into their lives.  They are those who cannot help themselves when it comes to creating.  They are those who see the world differently and cause others to pause and think.  You are one of them.  This is how I know:

You know you’re a ‘Writer’ when:

  • You write as if you are talking to someone. When you address a reader, real or imagined, you know you have something to say.  It is your desire to share yourself, or your story coming through on the page.
  • You have a need to “write it down.” You feel the urge to get to your computer when something significant is going on so you won’t forget the details. You describe things in specific ways in order to capture the images in your mind.
  • You express your emotions. When you are angry, you write letters you never mail.  When you are sad, your tears spill onto the page and smear your ink.  When you are frustrated with the political system, you vent. (I couldn’t resist that one.)  All of your emotions go onto a page, either into a character or in a letter to the editor.  You feel deeply.
  • You have a need to inform. So many people are not informed, and this is a problem to you.  You desire to get information into the hands of people.  Step by step instructions, facts, numbers, processes, anything that will enlighten your audience on a subject that you are passionate about.
  • You are passionate. You have strong feelings about topics that others may not care about at all.  This passion fuels your words.  It gets you out of bed to write.  It keeps you up late writing.  It is a desire to help others to feel, and even if they don’t, you want them to understand, at least, why you do.
  • You have the need to think. You pause and consider. You see things differently than those around you.  You are thoughtful.  Those thoughts are translated to the page.  You want your readers to consider different perspectives, so you write about them. You hope that they understand what you are saying.
  • You are intensely curious. When you hit upon a new topic, or time period, you research it until you have exhausted all sources; whether it’s for a novel, a story, or an article, it doesn’t matter.  You leave no stone unturned, not so much for your reader, but more because you want to know.  You want all the details.
  • You have a need to connect. You desire to know what your audience thinks and feels.  You hope that your words are a link to them.  You want to be known, and you also want others to have the same sense of belonging. You hope your words can be the bridge.
  • You are internal. This is not to say you are shy, though you might be. It is more that you process things inside of yourself.  You may not be comfortable expressing your ideas verbally until you have processed them on a page first.  You feel energized when you are able to get the right words down to say what you want to say.
  • You like to make people laugh. Humor is innate in writers.  Even if it doesn’t come out in your writing, you are likely to be one who values a good laugh.  In fact, we are good at self-effacing jokes that show we don’t take ourselves too seriously.  Our desire is to make our readers comfortable, and entertaining them is one thing that does that.
  • You want to be vulnerable. This isn’t true for every writer; however, wanting to show the real you is an important trait that transcends if your readers feel you are genuine.  This is the scariest of the things that make you a writer because being transparent in writing means you risk rejection.
  • Words come naturally to you. You have a knack for knowing just what to say, or picking just the right word.  Others may stumble in expressing themselves, but you help by pulling a word out of the air.  Friends may come to you and ask you to help them write something, because “you always know just what to say.”

I could go on, but I think you already know…you are a writer. It is time to own up.  It is time to speak the truth.  It is time to see yourself as the writer you are.  You will find that as you grasp the title, you will begin to believe it.  Courage and confidence will follow.  Words will flow.  I can’t wait to read some of them here on Two Drops of Ink.


For additional words about being a writer:

A Writer Is. . .  By: Marilyn L. Davis

My Message to Aspiring Writers   By: Lydia Oyetunji




    • It is far less frightening than you imagine it to be Lorraine. Most folks nod and smile and never ask for more information on just what you mean by that statement. It is far bigger in our heads than it is to speak it, because in our heads it is a claim, and in our mouths it is making the claim reality. Once it is out in auditory/written form, it is no longer what we want to be, but what we ARE.

  1. Hi, Michelle. Absolutely wonderful descriptions of a writer. Those attributes are all necessary, and I think when people read this, they will find themselves and might, just might, be able to say, “I am a writer.”

    I appreciate the encouraging tone and how it aligns with the mission here at Two Drops of Ink to encourage and grow our community of writers – and readers.

    Thank you.

  2. Thank you for your post. As I read this, I kept thinking, ‘That’s me!’ I am extremely curious. I like to make and hear people laugh, even if the joke is on me. Some stories are too good not to share. I enjoy research, and I like to write about things I research. So thank you for making me believe I am a writer. I can own that.

  3. Thank you for putting into words the struggle that all of us writers feel at one point or another in our lives and careers. Great post! We are not alone!

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