There are a lot of things these days that can be turned on by just flicking a switch. The lamp on your desk. The room fan. Starting your car (rather elaborate switch, but one nonetheless). Booting your computer. You flick a switch. Seemingly magical power flows in from somewhere and Aha! The light illuminates, the fan cools, the car runs.
There is no switch to flick to become a writer. Once you are a writer, there's no corresponding switch to shut it off.
Some of us know that we want to be writers for most of our lives. Others of us come to the realization late in life. For all of us, becoming a writer is a process. There's the jotting down of ideas, typing up little stories or huge books. Perhaps we attend a local writer's conference or group and suddenly we're surounded by conversation and ideas that all have to do with the craft, the emotion, and the wonder of writing. We explore more, we talk more, we ask more questions and after a while, the writing culture and the language begin to pervade our everyday life.
We begin to think and act like writers. We listen in on conversations to hear just the right intonation or selection of words that convey character. We watch people, fascinated with behavior. We read books on the craft and subscribe to writers' magazines. We learn that we can't go very long without writing, working on a project that may or may not see the light of a publishing house. We start to create proposals and send out submissions to editors and agents. After all these activities, spending time with other writers, and setting down word after word, page after page, each of us finally accepts the persona, the role of Writer as our own.
One day, we take a breath and realize, "I am a writer."
We most likely have other roles: parent, student, employee, pet owner, volunteer, on and on. But to the mix, we add "Writer". A Writer has a self-image, a set of behaviors, a way of thinking that is unique. And if we assume the role of Writer, we often leave one of our other roles behind.
We know we've made the ultimate transition when we're asked in casual conversation, "So what's been keeping you busy?" and we answer, without a pause, "I'm a writer."
Are you there yet? Have you adopted the role of Writer? What would it take to bring you to that realization?