After publishing The Insistence of Memory, I can’t count the number of people who have told me some variation of “I always wanted to be a writer.” My natural reaction to confessions like that is something like “Cool, what have you written?”
The answer to that question varies, but most often it’s along the lines of “Oh! I haven’t written anything since school.” With school being a time 15+ years in the past. And, more than I’d expect, the answer is closer to “Oh, I’ve never actually written anything, I just have great ideas.”
Now I mean this in the least judgmental, most genuinely curious way. When I hear answers like that, one follow-up question always comes to mind:
If you don’t spend time writing, why would you want to “be a writer”?
Be honest with yourself.
Do you genuinely enjoy expressing yourself through written work, even if you’ve gotten away from it over the years?
Do you love reading and have a vague sense that it would be <insert positive idea> to be the one who writes books?
Do you think being a writer is the same as being a bestselling author?
Maybe you know the answers to those questions. Maybe you aren’t sure. Either way, if you want to be a writer there is something you can do about it:
If you have great ideas, write them down. Shape them into a story (or a poem, essay, play, etc.). Put in the effort and see if you actually like the process of writing.
If you don’t enjoy it, you find out that writing isn’t for you. If you do, then you can keep honing your process, finish some projects, and decide where you want to go with it.*
There is more than one way to be a writer, but all of them involve spending some time actually writing.
The same is true of any dream you might have.
I want to be a _______.
How many ways can you finish that sentence? Dancer? Knitter? Actor? Yogi? Singer? Gourmet chef? Golfer? Race car driver?
Whether you’re thinking of a hobby or a career change, there are steps you can take to stop dreaming and try that activity for yourself. Take a class. Buy an instructional book or video. Audition for community theater.
Give it an honest chance. There may be a learning curve. It may take some persistence to get past the initial awkwardness of trying something new. It may take some mental effort (and the moral support of friends) to get over your fears and insecurities. But you can do it.
If there’s something you want to be, turn it into something you actually do.
What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe you discover that you don’t actually enjoy the activity as much as you thought you would. Maybe you love it and add another layer to your identity.
Whatever happens, you’ll have a deeper understanding of what you really want. And that alone can be deeply satisfying.
*Keep in mind that the odds of an unknown writer breaking into traditional publishing, let alone penning a bestseller, are slim. But slim does not mean impossible and there are many other options for self-publishing or sharing your work.