A writer is any person who uses words on paper (or nowadays, on screen) to communicate. You may be a forced or reluctant writer, only putting words on paper for assignments. You may joyfully embrace writing as a significant aspect of what you do. Or you may fall somewhere between these two extremes. But if you don’t think of yourself as a writer even when you do a lot of writing, you probably fall on the reluctant end of the writing spectrum.
What causes reluctant writing? I’ve given this much thought, having been a reluctant writer myself. Indeed, I was in my 30s before I realized that I was a writer, not just a poet or editor. Once I recognized that, I could also admit not only that I wrote well, but that writing could be fun. My conclusion on reluctant writers? Like many aversions, reluctant writing is a learned response to early experience.
I must state before writing further that I harbor no ill-will to elementary teachers anywhere. I learned to spell, to create sentences and paragraphs and to organize my thoughts thanks to elementary teachers (and my parents, but that’s another important story, for another day). What I didn’t learn was to enjoy the process.
For me as a child, the not-enjoyable part centered on the mechanics. I was not a fluent printer or writer. To this day, neat and clean handwriting remains a chore. Typing on a typewriter (when I reached high school) just switched the chore to retyping whole pages whenever I mistyped something, to get clean copy to hand in.
It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that my epiphany about being a writer came after the proliferation of personal computers and, specifically, the entrance of PCs into my own personal home. But even after getting a computer and beginning my freelance writing career, I still thought of writing as something I did “on assignment.”
Which is not to say I only wrote when being paid for writing. I’m told I’ve created poetry since before I knew what writing was or how to form letters. (Mercifully, none of my early poetry survives. I suspect most of it was childish doggerel that only a grandmother could love.) And I’ve kept journals off-and-on since high school.
I think the change came for me when I realized that the whole take notes, make an outline, write framework my teachers enforced was not my only option. That it was meant as an aid to composition, not a straitjacket I had to wear even when it got in the way. Free at last!
My goal as a writing coach is to move other people from the “reluctant” beginning to the “joyful” end of the writing spectrum. Two core beliefs drive this process: that you can be a better writer than you think you can and that you can enjoy writing more than you think you can. I help my clients figure out what makes writing not-fun for them, and realize not only what they have trouble with … but what they already do well.