Surfing the web you can come across a zillion of posts listing the telltale signs you are a writer.
These posts can be entertaining, no doubt about that. But they’re often based on myths, stereotypes, and little more.
For example don’t worry if you didn’t start reading and writing before other children of your age. Or if your spelling abilities are still next to non existent.
Many great writers have managed to succeed despite these problems, and some others way more difficult as well.
Just think of W. B. Yeats and Jeanne Betancourt who had to work around their dyslexia.
Think also of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle, who found himself paralyzed apart from one eye as a result of a catastrophic stroke. And yet managed to write a touching book — The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Signs you are a writer – the bullshit
The truth is that like in every other profession, writers come in all sizes, so to speak.
We have immensely prolific writers like Alexandre Dumas, Isaac Asimov, or Barbara Cartland. And we have also writers like Harper Lee, Ralph Ellison, Margaret Mitchell, who wrote just one or two novels in their lifetime.
We have writers who did time in jail, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Ken Kesey, and William Burroughs—besides, each of them for totally different reasons.
For example, Burroughs killed his wife, while Solhzhenitsyn in a letter to a friend simply wrote a derogatory comment about how Josef Stalin was conducting the war. But alas for him he lived in the URSS.
Some writers saw their works published early on in their careers. Instead others, late bloomers, wrote their best works well past their prime.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published when she was 20. Arthur Rimbaud saw his first poem published when he was only fifteen. And only three years older, Christopher Paolini saw his Eragon published.
Instead Donald Ray Pollock had to reach 57 to have his first novel published — The Devil All the Time. Helen DeWitt was 44 when The Last Samurai was released. And Raymond Chandler wrote his first and most famous novel, The Big Sleep, when he was 51.
We could go on claiming that English is the best language to write a novel. Or that Chinese is. We could say only hermaphrodites can write about men and women and all the others are just fakes, hacks.
We could maintain the only genre worth reading and writing is literary fiction. That writers work best when they are drinking lot of coffee, or tea, or soda. But then pumping things up a bit, drugs too should work wonders.
Oh, I was forgetting. We could make it mandatory for all writers have some kind of mental illness. Because that’s the only way to look at reality from a novel and more interesting angle, isn’t it?
We might also make sure writers are all fervent believers. Or maybe not. Maybe they should be pragmatists or even atheists.
I hope the ultimate takeaway this list can provide you with is that you should never let anyone fool you.
Because if you have made your mind up, you just have to follow your path. And if you follow it long enough you’re bound to get somewhere.
Maybe it will not be the exact place you had planned to reach at the beginning of your journey. But it will be a place you can use to plan the second leg of your literary journey. And then the third, the fourth and so on.
In fact no writer has ever published a book exactly as he or she had initially envisioned it.
That’s so for a simple and absolutely compelling reason. We’re all human. Fallible humans that on some days can find it difficult or even painful to sit for long hours typing away–hey, I mean, have you ever suffered of a bad case of hemorrhoids?
Besides we have also rebellious minds (or maybe just untrained minds). As a result we can only write the best we can and then go on. From a book to another, like Tarzan swings from a tree to the other.
Ok, maybe his style is far from perfect, but he does move and reaches his destination. And we have to do just the same.
Because it’s not necessarily the single book that makes a journey meaningful. Rather, it’s the string of books we manage to pound into being. A book at a time, a step at a time.
Signs you are a writer – the real thing
I believe the only things we can say about being writers are few and simple.
1) Writers read a lot.
2) Writers write a lot–notice I didn’t write ‘publish’.
3) Writers think a lot about writing.
4) Writers have an inquisitive mind, an overactive imagination.
5) They love having written, not necessarily writing.
The way I see it, all the rest is just bullshit. But please, do chime in and tell me what you think about this in the comments below.