pencil and sharpener

Want to be an artist? Then do it.

Once upon a time I wanted to be a writer. A writer, in my early-20-something brain, was someone who had a masters of fine arts in creative writing and taught creative writing classes and had a certain lifestyle and I guess wrote some stuff that was all published. To prep myself for the writing part of it, I took lots of creative writing classes as an undergraduate: short fiction writing, memoir writing, lots of craft analysis courses; my senior thesis was even a craft analysis of a text of an author I admired, Alice Munro.

Then life happened – career changes, graduate school for what was not an MFA, two cross-country moves, changing family dynamics, work projects – and I stopped writing.

Part of me knew that one day, I’d finally dive in with the focus I’ve always brought to school and work and finally try and make a go of it – completing a creative project and getting myself published, and then writing some more – but the muses haven’t come to me lately.

About three weeks ago, in my new city, I went to an author day event at the city’s main library. Why? I wanted to meet new people and learn more about local resources for writers, because I knew that I’d have time to devote to writing sometime soon, maybe. I attended a panel that discussed local resources for writers. When one of the panelists asked the small group why we were there, I froze, but heard a couple of other folks offer their own explanations- they were writing, ready to publish, looking for editors. Emboldened, inspired to announce myself as a creative type, I spoke up.

“I’m new to the area and I’m a writer. I haven’t published any of my creative writing but I’m looking for local resources.”

The panel ended. Instead of sticking around, speaking to the panelists, hearing other panels, meeting other creative types, I left, to go shopping for workout clothes (because that’s what I’ve been doing in my free time instead of writing: exercising). Sorting through racks of marked-down sports bras, I felt uncomfortable. I thought that announcing myself to be a writer would put me at ease, surface the good kind of vulnerability that comes with pushing one’s boundaries, awaken my creativity, but no.

It took me a few days and time spent thinking back on my  younger self’s preconceived notions of what it meant to be a writer to see how silly I had been in that moment in declaring myself a writer. Because you aren’t a writer, an artist, whatever, by having a certain lifestyle.

This calls for all caps: YOU’RE A WRITER IF YOU WRITE.

Claiming to be a writer, painter, photographer, artist-in-general without any of the work involved in these pursuits does nothing to refine your craft or use your creativity. Claiming to be a writer without actually writing is quite disingenuous.

You’re an artist if you create art. You’re a writer if you write.

And what have I not been doing much of? Writing. Am I a writer? I don’t know.

I’ve been distracted, busy, scared, unsure of what direction to put my efforts. And that’s fine. But is it in my best interests to skirt the edges of this type of artistic endeavor without diving in? Without actually writing something? To be making public proclamations that are currently not supported by the discipline and creativity I know I need to foster? No.

So I’ll be writing. I have some ideas. I have some research to do in terms of where/when to publish. I have a lot of work to do. And I have a lot of writing to do.

Because if I am going to actually, finally consider myself a writer, I’m going to write.

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