Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
November 30, 2015

I am a Writer—Own it!

Kathryn Craft

Turning Whine Into Gold

DeathtoStock_Creative Community7I am a writer.

For ten years, as a dance critic, I failed to own the power of these words. For me writing was a guilty pleasure, like eating potato chips, only I could make a little money while doing it.

But then I had a visit from my uncle, an English teacher and unpublished novelist, who shared his perception that I had the perfect life—living on a farm, renovating my home just the way I wanted it, raising my children, and writing dance criticism.

I scoffed at the last, echoing the rest of my family’s prevailing sentiment: “But I make so little money.” My uncle responded, “What we need in this world isn’t money. What we need is influence.” I have never forgotten those words.

Shortly thereafter I started journaling—in other words, writing for free, with words no one else would ever see. Those were the words that made me feel real.

I know you are a writer, too, and here’s why.

You felt an electric surge when you read the opening words of this post. If you scanned that sentence too quickly, go back and read it aloud. Yeah, it’s that jolt.

You may write to entertain, yes, but more importantly you do so to empty your mind of the noise that commands most people’s attention. You’ll dig deeper to unearth the richer material many will miss.

On the days you don’t write (note irony) you are fashioning Facebook posts, honing the perfect 140, or organizing notes for an upcoming talk. While doing daily tasks you are daydreaming or pondering. You care what your loved ones are saying but must often ask them to repeat, because something they said sent your mind onto a tangent. Your text messages are never shorter than three paragraphs and your emails become the basis of blog posts.

You whoop aloud when, after fifteen minutes of effort, you realize that replacing “expect” with “anticipate” will make all the difference in your sentence. Communication matters to you, so very much it sometimes hurts.

During any spare moment you read anything that’s sitting around—cereal boxes, shampoo ingredients, your kid’s homework. And then, just for fun, you read.

You are curious. Others may wait out their dentist appointments with eyes closed; you’ll leave knowing the names of the instruments, what they’re for, and something personal about the one whose hands were just in your mouth. Maybe you even wanted to be a dentist, but had too many other interests to limit yourself. Your stories allow you the satisfaction of having lived more than one life.

Even if your love is writing fiction, truth and honesty are of the utmost importance. You probably had a trauma or difficulty earlier in life that you chewed on for a long time, and writing helped you make sense of it. This made you feel like an outsider and you studied the behavior of others to figure out why.

That time when you threw your back out and pain kept you pinned to the couch, you asked someone to fetch a pad and paper so you could record how you felt. You took notes during the final waning days of your mother’s life so you wouldn’t forget what was funny and beautiful, even in these dire circumstances. You needed proof that while aging and dying are inevitable, they need not equal helplessness and despair.

You are a gambler, and hope that your work will meet with monetary reward. But at the end of your life, it will be more important to you to say you’ve done something meaningful with your time here on earth than to have left behind the money you made from doing so.

Know this, and stay strong in it: being a writer is your identity. This is powerful medicine for when inevitable writing challenges arise.

Your identity is what no agent, publisher, critic, or Barnes and Noble buyer can take away from you. It is the expression of the god in you—“I am a writer” is your version of the way the great “I am” self-identified to Moses at the burning bush on Mount Horab. Writing is the way you deepen your observations and apply perspective; it is how you will change the world. By outlasting your corporeal presence, your words will bestow a measure of immortality.

You are a writer. What will you do with this fearsome gift?


Did you see yourself in this post? What other attributes reinforce your sense of self as a writer? In what ways are you different from the non-writers you know? Please share in the comments!

About Kathryn

10685420_966056250089360_8232949837407332697_nArt of FallingKathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, and The Far End of Happy.

Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads workshops, and speaks often about writing.

Kathryn lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA.

Twitter: @kcraftwriter
FB: KathrynCraftAuthor

46 comments on “I am a Writer—Own it!”

  1. Kathryn, thank you for this post. You made me cry--in a good way. The key sentence: at the end of your life, it will be more important to you to say you’ve done something meaningful with your time here on earth than to have left behind the money you made from doing so. While it would be wonderful to make enough money from my writing that I could stop doing other work and focus on writing (ha ha ha!) the important thing for me is that I touch people with my writing, that I impact their lives in a positive way, and hopefully, give the joy. If I can do this--and at least have an inkling that I have--I can die happy and peaceful. Know that you have touched my life today and, again, I thank you.

    1. I'm so glad this post touched you, Christine, which as you know is such a wonderful reward for having taken the time to write it. The trick is keeping your perspective once you actually start making money from your published books, since the pressure to shift to a business model from your partners (agent, publisher) is keen. And of course you do want to be read! But it's awfully hard work work if it doesn't feed your soul and enrich your life.

  2. Hi Kathryn,
    I loved this post - your mention of Moses at Mt. Horeb verified why. Sorry but I don't in any way identify with the great "I am" (YHWH or the Lord Jesus depending on your theology). But I do feel called to be a writer / self-publisher which I think was the point of your message. In that way I might view myself like a Moses with much smaller responsibilities.

    Tom Clarke,
    Author of "A Garden of Love", a gift book for Christian women about love and flowers

    1. Hmm, Tom—your blogging name is "prayer gardeners" and you wrote a gift book for Christians and yet you don't relate to the power of the bible story on Mt. Horeb. You are an interesting fellow! I'm not sure that the call to be truly authentic in a public way, and to do difficult work for uncertain reward, ever comes with small responsibility. Being strong in our identity helps us stay strong in our work. Thanks for your comment and hope our paths meet again!

  3. Thank you for this. When I was published it gave me such joy to know that the Tuxedo Jazz Band, and the musicians that were involved with it since its beginning in 1910, would be forever known. It hadn't occurred to me that my name would be on the book with them. That thing about the cereal boxes made me laugh. I keep books in the bathrooms because I've pretty much memorized the bottom of the tissue box. You live in a beautiful area. I grew up on Fell Road in Doylestown. My interest in research started with the box of books from the early 1800's I found in the attic. Thanks again.

  4. Wonderful post Kathryn. I have a habit of keeping to myself most of what I write and not publizing enough of who and what I am. Writing is such a great outlet and release of all that is locked inside my brain. I also read cereal boxes, take notes when others speak, and have decided writing emails are the main source of my blog posts! Thank you for putting this all into perspective. ~Elle

    1. Hi Elle, thanks for your comment, which interests me very much. The beauty of "I am" is that you simply...are. People will know through your words and actions (you blog!) that you are a writer. Thanks for "coming out" here today!

  5. A wonderful reminder—I needed it this morning. The writing life can be a bit lonely, but worth it. We can share most of the activities we get involved in, but when it comes to our writing, non writers just don't get it. They look as us with a funny expression when we light up and glow over the subject of writing. 🙂 Thanks for the article.

    1. Hi Mary, "Writer Kathryn" also combs post comments for future blog ideas, so thank you. I lead one of the most social writing lives out there. I'll write about it in a future post here!

  6. This is my first - ever - blog post. I was sitting at the computer, nodding my head as I identified with several reasons why I am a writer. But one stood out for me: gambler. Your post was so right! A couple of years ago I asked myself, when I am on my deathbed, if I'd be more upset that I never completed my Masters degree or if I'd be more upset if I didn't write. The answer came clearly: If I didn't write, it'd be one of the biggest regrets of my life! So I set aside all the many practical reasons to pursue a graduate degree and set to the work of my heart's desire. Trust me - a masters thesis would be a walk in the park compared to writing a novel. "Secondary Intention" will be ready in a few short weeks.

  7. The 'read anything' has been my habit since I could read. Cereal boxes are actually pretty interesting - tissue boxes, not so much.

    If only I'd known back then that it was the Hallmark of a writer.

    No, on second thought, I wouldn't trade the journey I've had to discover that for anything!

    Thanks, as always, for the reminder, Kathryn!

  8. I love the challenge of "You are a writer. What will you do with this fearsome gift?" Great post! (I, too, admit to cereal box reading and anything else I see!)

  9. My favorite line in your blog: "Your stories allow you the satisfaction of having lived more than one life." Stories do that, don't they. I've always been a reader of anything put in my path -- books, shampoo bottles, tissue boxes, other people, myself. I've been absorbing words for all of my 68 years. Now I think it's time I squeezed myself a little and let some of these words flow out onto the page, so I can share all the lives that I am. I AM a writer. It's my way of breathing.

    1. Every time I thought I'd chosen a career path—biochemist, Russian translator, doctor, dance prof, biology teacher (note the disparity?)—I mourned the loss of all the paths I wouldn't be able to walk. I had to be a writer. It allows me all those lives!

  10. Someone asked me the other day why I write. My answer made perfect sense to me: "Because I think better through my fingers." 🙂
    Thank you, Kathryn, for an absolutely perfect post!

  11. I can completely relate to the "You are curious" line. I was painfully shy as a child, but found my voice while working at Disneyland. Ever since, I can spark a conversation with just about anyone. My brain growls with hunger for new chicken-mcnuggets of knowledge. Anytime. Anywhere. Thanks for validating my strange level of curiosity and how it plays into my new life as a romance writer. I. AM. A .WRITER!

    1. That's one of the best things I like about you, Chris. You're always curious - and you connect with people by asking questions.....have you read Dale Carnegie by any chance?

  12. Yes, Christopher, you are! And curiosity is such a key ingredient to the creative life. Doesn't almost every story start with the question, What if...? And then of course, Why?

  13. OMG...I just posted my blog today on this very subject! I needed this so badly. You made me laugh out loud. Thank you for reminding me that I do this for the love, the passion, and the need to just be me! I hope you don't mind if I share this...

  14. Yeah! The jolt was there at the very beginning. Throughout, you kept hitting that nail on the head with this post. I am sure that you are talking about ME.
    Many thanks.

  15. What a fantastic post, Kathryn! For years I told no one at work, or even my friends, that I was writing a science fiction book. I finished two books before I told my closest friends and family. Of course, my husband knew what I was doing. He didn't complain on the rare occasions when he had to pour out corn flakes for dinner because I was on a "writing roll." While working on my fourth book I finally told everyone I was writing. And yes, that tangent thing is me. In spades.

  16. OMG I thought I was just weird because I do all those things. Any minute I am not reading or writing or painting, I am writing or painting in my mind. I see something and a story springs into my mind about it. I have been in the habit of ignoring that, but lately I have not been able to dismiss it so easily. I have written a number of (very) short stories that I never even attempted to get published and I have 2 novels I am in process of writing. Yes, 2, because they are both clamoring at me. Oh yes, and a few more short stories too.

    1. Hi Gini, funny what assumptions we make. You thought you were weird because you did all these things, and I assumed that if I did them, everyone did! Guess you knew you were special all along!

  17. Sorry to be late to the party Kathryn. But, wow, just wow! You just described me in one post when it's taken me decades to figure out who I am. I was a lost soul. Thank you so much for renewing my determination to keep on going. I am a writer. Who knew? 🙂

    1. Karen I love the enthusiasm in your comment here. It tells me something: you recognized yourself. Re-cognizant: you know, again. Meaning, you always knew, somewhere inside. Now weren't you just so smart? I think sometimes we are the last to truly know ourselves. Which I always tell people who think it's so easy to write a memoir!

  18. Kathryn, this post honestly brought my heart right up, lifted my spirit, and hugged the very essence of me. Thank you for touching my mind and heart. I re-read, and got more again.

    Thank you so much - Nikki in Dublin.

  19. Thank you for this. Just to say those words aloud, 'I am a writer' and believe them with new realisation. So many affirmations in what you have written - all of the above and much more. Why is it that we can know something and then really know it differently through someone else's words? I am a writer. It's what I do so it must be true. Thank you again.

    1. I actually had to write these words over and over in my journal until I could write them in a confident hand without errors. I am a writer. Such simple words! But if you really are a writer, you know the power they wield—and once you recognize it, you are called to use it.

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