Do you want a writing life?

#76 - Mannequin Artist

A turning point in how I felt about my writing and myself came when I stopped obsessing about wanting to be a writer and realized that what I really wanted—what I’ve always wanted—was to live a writing life.

The difference is profound and led to the name of this blog.

The idea of being a writer comes with a lot of baggage. Are we writers simply by saying we are writers? Is there a difference between a writer and an author? Okay, I might be a writer, but when can I call myself a real writer? When I write something that gets published? Does it have to be a book? Does it have to be for pay? Do I have to have an agent? Do e-books count? Self-published books?

All of these questions and considerations can lead to a lot of anxiety and procrastination that lead us further from a writing life rather than closer to it.

Having a writing life, however, is much simpler (but not necessarily easier). It means committing ourselves to the creative life of the mind and to the written word. It means not apologizing for the fact that our best friends in life really have often been books and the people in them. It means rearranging our schedules to prioritize putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, even when that means saying “no” to a full social calendar or checking Facebook at every opportunity or indulging in yet more anxious thoughts about “being a writer.” It means saying “yes” to reading—every day if at all possible.

The dream of being a writer can feel like a colossal goal, one that can easily elude us or be taken away by others’ decisions.

Having a writing life is something we can start right now, and the reward is in the doing, not the dreaming. Having a writing life requires that we write, but it’s about so much more. It’s a way to give our life meaning.

Do you see the difference?

What do “being a writer” and “living a writing life” mean to you?

Photo credit: JohnONolan. Made available at under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

2 thoughts on “Do you want a writing life?

  1. Hi Lisa, I had a similar feeling. I knew from a young age that I wanted to “be a writer,” but how could one be a writer without having been published? Seemed like a chicken and egg problem. So I decided to get an MFA – not because I thought it would get me a job (though it did!) or necessarily lead to publication, but rather because I could then officially declare myself “a writer.” Since then I have made money in various ways, but no matter what my day job has been I start with, “I’m a writer.” I think it’s important to take that step because it shows you take your writing seriously…. whether or not anyone else does! But of course, to hear that much-more-published writers like you have similar challenges is also helpful. I do have a writing life, though most of it is spent doing things other than writing. Thanks for this post! Suki

    • Suki, thanks very much for this. What I find really interesting is how we each have whatever set of criteria in our heads for what it means to be “a writer” (e.g., having an MFA). Maybe the trick is simply to do what we need to do make that declaration possible.

      I find more and more that even though I do think of myself as a writer, having a writing life is even more important. And, as you wrote, that includes non-writing aspects of my life, too.

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