Remember: You are a writer.
Here's the most important thing to know about writing. Also, a writing prompt for your midlife reinvention.
I’ll never forget my first attempt at executive scriptwriting in the early days of my career. The speaker crossed out almost every word except the introductory line, “Hi, my name is ____.” My writing was too emotional, my sentences too complex, and my metaphors obscure. “In business,” he said, “you write for an eighth-grade reader.”
I learned that day that writing for a 12 or 14-year-old audience is considered a best practice. But what I heard with my heart and soul was, you’re not a writer.
That’s what the bookstore clerk said too. In the early 2000s, Saturday nights for this forty-something single mom meant a trip to Barnes & Noble. I’d swipe on mascara and lip gloss, just in case I grazed fingers with Mr. Talldarkandhandsome over the ‘New in Fiction’ table. I’d brought a short stack of C.D.s and books to the man behind the raised checkout counter. He was about my age, tall but jaundiced and stooped with rounded edges—like a butternut squash. He scanned the C.D.s then stopped to look at the book on the craft of writing—its name escapes me. Turning the book over, he looked down at me and said, “You know what they say? A writer writes.”
I’m sure I gave him a little smile because that’s what we gals had learned to do when men explained things to us, but the comment hit home. I hadn’t been writing except in my journals. I’d never been published. I was not a writer.
This quote is a reminder to myself and to you. Our words matter. You can download this image if you’d like or share the entire post. The background photo is mine.
Since I can remember, scenes and details and bits of dialogue have formed in my head. Sometimes I’d write them down, mostly not. I’ve lost countless stories, moments, ideas, and feelings to a lack of belief. Every time I would come home with a fresh haul of notebooks, colorful gel pens, and the latest copy of Writer’s Digest was the moment I would finally commit. And I’d start. And then stop. This went on for decades.
I wish I knew then what I’ve since learned. I would have clapped back at that condescending gourd with confidence. I am a writer.
We are all writers.
A writer writes—this is true. But a writer also reads. A writer learns. She is eager to experiment and grow. She may write epic best-sellers or bits of poetry in the sand. She may write nothing she’d ever share. She writes to-do lists, love letters, and scathing emails. She publishes ground-breaking research, bodice-rippers, and blogs about baking. She traces the alphabet on a baby’s pudgy hand. She makes plans, keeps calendars, takes beautiful photographs, and captures rainbows in her mind. I could go on.
The most important thing to know about writers is that you are one. How or whether or not you put your words into the world doesn’t matter—you are writing your story. What will your next chapter be?
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It’s a fact. Writing is an act of self-care and self-discovery. I’m offering these beginnings, or thoughts, to help spur reflection and (re)inspiration as you head into your next chapter. Try writing for at least five minutes on the first prompt before moving on to the second.
If you’d like, feel free to leave a comment with a few lines from what you wrote. There is only one rule. Be kind to yourself as you write and to others as they trust this community with their words. Okay. Thanks. Now, let’s write!
1, Reflect: Finish this sentence: The reason I didn’t believe I could …
2, Inspire: Keep writing! Make this your next line: Now, I realize I can …
This is so true and inspiring and beautifully written. I loved the descriptions - the man who is like a butternut squash, tracing the alphabet on a baby's pudgy hand - Lovely, all of it. Thank you, Catherine, I can't wait to read more!