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What makes a writer? (In-depth guide)

What makes a writer? (In-depth guide) What makes a writer? (In-depth guide)
In this article:

    Let’s talk about the how and why of writing: how we approach writing, how we nurture ourselves as writers, and how we get to where we want to go.

    But first, let’s clear something up: a writer is someone who writes. You don’t need to be full-time to call yourself a writer, have a traditional book deal, or hit x number of views on Wattpad in order to qualify as a writer. You’re already here.

    How to use the Creator Portal

    The Creator Portal has a lot of information to sift through. We’re designing Creator Education Resources to help you on your writing journey. But this isn’t school, and you don’t have homework. If a post doesn’t speak to the issue you’re facing right now, bookmark it and save it for later. These resources are designed to be evergreen, so feel free to return to them whenever you hit a wall or need some fresh inspiration.

    The writing life

    We tend to think of writers as some rarefied breed of person, living a writing life that involves scribbling away day in and day out in a Pinterest-worthy study. But if a writer is someone who writes, the writing life is the life of a writer. Rather than being something reserved for the fortunate few, the writing life is what you make of it. Making notes on your phone as you wait for the bus, or sneaking in fifteen minutes of writing as the kids are napping, or dashing off a couple of sentences between classes—all of these are manifestations of the writing life as much as a Saturday afternoon in a coffee shop is. 

    We tend to think of writers as some rarefied breed of person, living a writing life that involves scribbling away day in and day out in a Pinterest-worthy study. But if a writer is someone who writes, the writing life is the life of a writer. Rather than being something reserved for the fortunate few, the writing life is what you make of it. Making notes on your phone as you wait for the bus, or sneaking in fifteen minutes of writing as the kids are napping, or dashing off a couple of sentences between classes—all of these are manifestations of the writing life as much as a Saturday afternoon in a coffee shop is. 

    First, forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.
    – Octavia Butler

    Our worksheet will help you identify where in your life you can make room for writing, and appreciate everything you’re already doing. Whether you’re sneaking in fifteen minutes where you can or able to devote whole days to writing, our calendar worksheet will help you identify what you’re already doing and how you can be more deliberate about that time.

    The story you want to tell

    What is the story you want to tell? Not in a “who are the characters and what is the plot” way. Those are important questions when you’re writing, but they’re not the only questions. What does this story mean to you? What are you trying to say? What is central to your vision? These core questions are not about craft so much as they’re about alignment.

    It can be tempting to discount our voices and our writing, especially if that writing doesn’t take a form that most of the world considers to be “serious” or “literary.” But every writer is writing about something. Every story is about something beyond the plot and characters. Maybe you’re writing about feeling unlovable but finding love anyway, or about being faced with challenges that feel so much bigger than you and finding a way through them. Only you can say what you’re writing about and why.

    Being clear on your alignment offers you a way through sticky creative questions. If you’re not sure what happens next in your story, returning to your why can help you figure out where you’re going next.

    Writing is a process of making a thousand tiny decisions. What shapes the decisions you make in your work? What are you trying to say about those decisions? You are a writer and the things you write matter. There is something only you can bring to your writing, and cultivating that internal sense of perspective and priority is an essential component of the writing life. 

    Impostor syndrome

    Ever feel like you’re faking it? Like your skills aren’t really all that, and you’re one wrong move from being exposed as a fraud? Or that everyone else has it figured out but you’re just flailing around trying to figure it out as you go?

    Yeah, us too. That’s impostor syndrome and it sucks, but it’s pretty common. Basically, everyone feels like they’re faking it some of the time (or even a lot of the time!).

    Here are some ways we see impostor syndrome come up on Wattpad:

    • Another writer/story has more views than me
    • My story isn’t as good as another story with the same setup
    • I’m not good enough to write this story
    • I’m not getting very many comments so readers must not like my story
    • I’m not a “real” writer because I don’t have a book deal

    Impostor syndrome is one of the shadow companions of the writing life. Making peace with these shadows is part of the process of building yourself up as a writer. These feelings might come and go, but you don’t need to be defined or consumed by them.

    Here are some things to remember when you’re feeling impostor-y or otherwise down on yourself: 

    Don’t compare your draft to someone else’s finished work

    You don’t see another writer’s writer’s block, junked drafts, deleted paragraphs, or chapters that just wouldn’t work. You only see what is published. You don’t see other writers’ internal struggles or insecurities. But you definitely see your own! It’s easy to think that because you can’t see other people’s processes or insecurities they are perfectly confident and produce stellar chapters instantaneously, but that’s a cognitive distortion. Mark Twain wrote that comparison is the thief of joy, and it’s also the death of art. Nothing kills inspiration faster than thinking it’s not good enough. Respect your own process and the coming-into-being of your writing, and don’t compare your art to others, especially not their finished products. 

    Come back to alignment

    Remember those questions we asked about what you’re writing about and why? Get in touch with that. Re-orienting yourself to your creative drive and the things you are trying to say with your art can help calm that impostor syndrome. When you tap back into the things that are important to you, the things that excite you creatively, comparison, and popularity matter way less.

    Appreciate your own perspective

    You bring something to your writing that no one else on earth does. Only you have your exact experiences, perspectives, and ways of creating meaning in the world. That matters! No one else can do exactly what you do. That’s something to appreciate and cultivate because it’s what makes your writing unique.

    If in doubt: two cakes

    There’s an old internet joke where someone brings a homemade cake to a party and sets it on the table next to a towering beautiful layer cake and feels bad because their cake isn’t as fancy as the other cake. But when the partygoers get to the table, they’re just thrilled at the prospect of having two cakes to eat. So what if your story isn’t the fanciest cake at the table? You made it, and that’s what matters. There’s something in there that only you could bring to your story. And your readers are going to be thrilled they get two cakes—more of the thing they love, whether it’s bad boys with a heart of gold, or chosen ones fighting dragons.

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