Monday, July 14, 2008


I've asked myself this question a few hundred times in the last five years. It's generally an existential one, focusing less on the undeniable fact that I am capable of forming words and putting them down on paper (or computer screen as the case may be) and more on the nature and uses of that capability.

The question usually resulted in a mindless, numbing spiral of frustration that goes something like this: Why am I writing? Should I be writing? What should I be writing? Would my time be better spent playing with my children or feeding the homeless? Is writing about something (violent murder, for instance) the moral equivalent of doing it? And what are we going to have for dinner and did I do the laundry and why, oh why, did I ever think that I could possibly write anything that anyone would ever want to read . . .

You know, just the general kind of writerly worrying.

But this year, that question has become a whole lot more practical. Am I writer or not? Let's look at the points for both sides.

1. I'm writing something at this very moment.
2. I attend writers' group--not as often, but often enough that they still remember my name.
3. I participate in my online group--again, not as often but often enough not to get locked out.
4. I submitted a piece to an anthology in March.
5. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about characters and situations.

But on the other hand . . .

Not a Writer:
1. I spend hardly any time putting my characters and situations down on paper
2. I've been working on the same novel for almost two years.
3. I've never had a fiction piece published.
4. I haven't queried agents for over two years.

And last but not least,
5. I don't see 1-4 changing any time soon.

Yes, my son has cancer. I am aware. Yes, it takes a lot of my attention and energy. Yes, my stress levels are high.

But wouldn't a writer write anyway? Wouldn't a real writer sit in the chair and type words every day regardless of the situation? Wouldn't a real writer use writing to buoy up her strength? Wouldn't a real writer be better, stronger, more committed than I am?

Okay, so maybe this is an existential question still.

Which means there really isn't an answer.

Darn it.


April said...

When I talk about you with people who don't know you, I define you like this: she is in my book club, she is a writer, and I love her.

JessK said...

Ditto your feelings, except for the child with cancer part.

Ginger said...

Only a writer would write out why they might not be a writer.

Ajoy said...

Ginger's clever. And right.

I don't think writers are good at the whole compromise thing. We want all of it, or none of it. Is Jacob better off because more of your time goes to him? Yes. Is your writing (and maybe you) suffering because less of your time is going to it? Yes.

We all know Jacob is more important to you simply because of how you've spent your time. I think it's time well spent.

We all know you're a writer. You're an amazing writer. This post proves it - you made me get that teary feeling.

Patty said...

You are a writer, no question about that--it is in your heart and soul the same way being a mother, a wife and wonderful friend is.