What if you’re not a writer? That’s probably just your Writing Dragon talking. Some people want to be, but they don’t have any natural ability for it, and they never develop their skills to the point that they can be a good writer. Some of them just don’t write anything, ever. People who never write aren’t writers.
Am I a writer?
If you ask yourself that question, you’re in good company. Chances are that you’re a writer, even if you struggle. Maybe especially if you struggle. If you didn’t work at it, if you just walked away and never wrote anything, you’d be in the group of people who aren’t writers, but you do work on it.
Whether or not you’re a professional writer, well, that is a matter of cold hard figures. Are you making any money from your writing? If so, you’re a professional by definition. You don’t have to make all of your income from writing, or even a large part of it to be considered a professional writer.
Make a living writing
Most people who write (and many who don’t) dream of making a living writing fulltime. Some do, but most don’t. At a writing conference I attended years ago, I heard a staggering fact: only 200 people in America make a fulltime living writing. The rest have a day job or someone else to pay the bills. Does that mean you should give up? No way!
I can say that almost 100% of my income is related to writing, and yet I have to say that my spouse works, so I fall into that second category: I have someone else to pay the bills. Most of them, anyway. Writing and editing pay for all of the business expenses, both for my businesses and his. It’s still a small income, but it’s going, and I feel good about it.
How can you know if you’re a writer? It’s very easy: writers write. We just do. We have to. It might not be all the time, so don’t freak out just because you don’t get the urge to write as often as you get the urge to… do other things. But sooner or later, something will be begging to get out of your head and onto paper (yes, the electronic kind counts), and if you don’t get it out of your head—if you hold it in long enough—it might make you go insane.
If you’ve ever felt that way, I’d be so bold as to say that you’re a writer. I’ve mentioned that need to people, and some of them just stare at me with a blank look. Nope, probably not writers. Probably not Creatives of any kind, if they can’t relate to that urge to make something, that NEED to make something that didn’t exist before. If it doesn’t ask to come out, ever, then it’s probably not in there. Others I’ve mentioned it to go, “YES! That’s exactly how I feel!” Yep, they are Creatives.
The creative urge
The only way to tell if the creative urge is inside you is to do things that will invite it to wake up. Some kids are so stifled in school or by parents that they don’t have the urge to create anymore (and so soon in life). What a tragedy. I think they really do still have the urge to create somewhere inside them, they just don’t recognize it for what it is, and they have no idea how to bring it out to play.
It’s the same with adults: it’s camouflaged as depression, or fidgetiness, or dissatisfaction with the way their lives or relationships are going. Yes, I literally know people whose marriages were saved by the fact that one of the spouses took to creating as a way of coping with stress. Create for stress relief. Create because it’s who you are. If you need to write, then you are a writer.