I've been reading a lot of blogs about writing lately (especially Jeff Goins and Michael Hyatt) and have been challenged by them to consider that if I really want to move forward with this whole writing thing, I need to start thinking of myself as, well, a writer. Which means telling other people that I am a writer...and that is a bit intimidating. I'm used to connecting what I am with what I get paid for, or with what I spend the greatest amount of time on. I used to be a teacher, because that was my job and I got paid for it. When I resigned to stay home with my kids, I ceased being a teacher, at least in my mind. Oh, I know that I am my children's teacher - even more so because we will begin homeschooling in the fall - but I don't tell people that I am a teacher anymore.
What do I call myself? I am a mother, a wife, a Christian. Those are the roles in which I invest my time and energy. There are many things I enjoy doing - like playing the piano or crocheting or photography - but I don't call myself a pianist or crocheter or photographer. Partly because I am not particularly skillful at these and partly because they don't occupy that much of my time.
So back to writing. I don't get paid for it, at least not yet. I don't spend the better part of my day doing it - how can I with two young children? I'm no virtuoso, although I am trying to be more skilled at this craft. So by what means can I claim the title "writer"? As I've thought about this, four things come to mind.
A passion for words. One of my favorite songwriters is Michael Card, largely because of how tightly his lyrics play with sounds and words to express deep theological truths. I love the old hymns for the same reasons. When I was pregnant with my daughter, one of my favorite shower gifts was a book of children's poetry. The words of great orators like Martin Luther King Jr. are thrilling to me. When I was little, my favorite games were Boggle and Scrabble. My idea of fun was reading enough books over the summer to win a prize from the library. One of my favorite book purchases after college was a big visual dictionary with illustrations of little known words like what you call the tip of your shoelace (an aglet). I'm a word geek all the way.
A dream of writing. My favorite books when I was a teenager were about women who longed to be writers. The Anne of Green Gables series, Julie by Catherine Marshall. When I was in high school, I found a book about writing for children and adolescents and read it from cover to cover dozens of times. I took writing classes whenever I could. I read magazine articles and think about how I could write as well as that author, and what my topic could be. I go through the day with my children with an eye to what I could write about later (they are still young enough not to care). I get a thrill when someone compliments me on my writing because it tells me that maybe, just maybe, my dream is within reach.
A decision to just do it. Sometime in the last few years, I decided to stop dreaming and start doing. I began blogging. Then I began writing an online monthly devotion. Now I have more ideas and works-in-progress than I have time for, some of which might just make it into the public, where my fourth idea comes into play.
A longing to change the world for the better. I think that whoever said, "The pen is mightier than the sword" might have had this in mind as well. I am captured by the power of words to do great good or great evil. The apostle James said as much when he wrote about the power of the tongue. The whole Bible is a testimony to the amazing ability to use words to express the very thoughts of the Creator - so much that Jesus himself was called the Word of God. I have been so influenced by the words of others that it is almost intoxicating to consider the influence I could have with my writing.
Intoxicating and scary. For what is a writer but a teacher as well? And the apostle James had some strong words of warning for those who call themselves teachers, for "we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1, NIV). I can't help but think that is true for writers, too, as we influence the world for better or for worse - not only through published writing, but also on blogs like this one, and even in Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.
So as I begin calling myself a writer, it is with a bit of trepidation as I consider the power of the unleashed word, the responsibility to handle it well, and the potential for God to use it for great good. And it is with a lot of excitement to see where this road leads.
When did you start to think of yourself as a writer, and why? Share in the comments below!