Spike the Punch
You have permission to call yourself a writer—without a book deal or byline.
I’m back from a week at a low-residency writing program in Michigan, and I have a few things to tell you about craft this month. The paint is drying on these thoughts, which I hope ring true to any of us doing creative work or speaking up about what we believe in—be in the Church, politics, culture, or our own story.
Spike the Punch
Say something beautiful, then spike the punch. Write like you talk. Say it back out loud, try to be casual even when it’s complicated. Then get gutsy.
Don’t make it a big deal, writing. It’s a trick, because for a lot of us writing is the biggest ever deal. But it helps, this healthy indifference.
Write hard things, things that are good and true, and then lighten the mood with something weird or kind of wacky. Keep them guessing.
When I started working toward a creative writing major in undergrad (...minors in communications and philosophy…the perfect enneagram 4 combo? ) we had to read an original poem in class.
It was the first time my heart bled out of my chest with fear. I could barely squeak “pass” while my classmates looked dumbfounded. No one else seemed that worried about my trajectory: The school’s sole writing professor began singing emails “the surfing grandpa” when he took a job in California. Peace out.
I didn’t know much writing mattered that much to me, or that my identity was so entwined in words.
When we love something, it plucks out the part of us that longs. Goodness and mercy follow what you do with your hands, everything you prepare. The setting of the table, goodness. The making of the bed, mercy. Writing things down, saying them to other people, finding your voice when we live in a freaky and sad world: Here, too, are goodness and beauty.
Like we talked about in my program last week, writing towards hope instead of cynicism or fear can heal. But like prayer or playing scales, writing it down takes a lot of practice.
If you’re waiting to call yourself a writer, but you actually need to write to live in the world, stop waiting. It doesn’t matter if you’ve published. It took me until I saw a byline under my name in a major publication to believe that I am a writer. The truth is, I’m still not sure if I believed it then. Probably because I still wouldn’t say it to myself.
The secret is actually plain. There are no rules about who gets to be a writer. If it helps to hear, I will tell you this: you are a writer if you love to write. You are a writer when you have something to say that can’t be spoken on a podcast or presented on a stage, but deserves the dignity of craft. Get over the idea of writing, and let the games begin.
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So good. Years back, I also started using that definition, "I'm a writer because I love to write."
Love, love, love this Sara. I still trip over imposter syndrome every time I say "I'm a writer" but this is the good word I need to remember <3