I never called myself a writer. I never thought I was good enough—clearly limiting myself only by my own battle with perfectionism. I pursued twelve-year career in advertising where writing was the PS—rather than the body—of my life.
Finally, they fired me and I found myself in a moment of mental liberation. I was forced into a crossroads of low risk and nothing to lose. With fear eliminated from the equation, I took a chance.
I decided that, yes, I was going to define myself as a writer. Like I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend. I am a writer.
I started speaking when I was nine months old, which was a relief for my mom, who was never very keen on the baby stage. I skipped the babbling and baby talk and went straight to Russian cynical observer.
I like to tell stories, write narratives, and write countless lines of description. Yet I do not consider myself incredibly imaginative. I am astute and analytical. I appreciate the background as much as the foreground. I want everything to be explained scientifically and proven to me. I doubt so much that sometimes I over tell a story. (And then sometimes I do it again.)
In hindsight (or is it not in hindsight if it was a good thing?), the journalism major made sense. I wasn’t ready to concoct my own stories because I hadn’t lived them yet. I spent the first part of my life commenting without evidence. Nowadays my rants have been substantiated by life.
So what makes a good writer?
Everyone has his or her yardstick. For me, I’d like to take a reader on an experience, if only momentarily, into a world I create for them. I’d like to engage them and leave a touch—an emotional reaction, introspection, realization.
A good writer paints vivid pictures with words, creates complex and realistic characters with values, conflicts, vulnerability. A good writer gives rise to towns and builds houses. A good writer will successfully let you see out of someone else’s eyes, wear someone else’s shoes, be in someone’s else’s head, and be a fly on every wall. And he will use very few clichés in transporting us to this alternate reality.
A good writer will make judgments and assumptions. He will scrutinize and analyze and philosophize. A good writer will understand how to tap into the nerve that makes us cry and laugh and empathize. A good writer is a transcriber of human nature, of life.
Unlike a doctor or a lawyer, a writer doesn’t require a formal degree to make it legit. You are a writer if you write. But deeming yourself a writer and sustaining yourself as a writer were on two different plains.
I had safely landed on one and needed to build a bridge to cross over onto the other.
People tell me that I am a good writer, that I have a way with words. I’ve even heard that my writing is poetic. (Ironic since I don’t really read or write poetry.) My definition came from somewhere else. I realized I was a writer because if I’m not writing it down all the time, it comes spilling out of me.
I am a writer because I am a thinker.
I’ve always been a thinker and have never found the off switch. I get by on very little sleep and usually am in a state of perpetual go. Writing grounds me. It gives me a place where I can be as loud and as ambitious as I want to be.
I often strive for perfection—and sometimes get beautiful. Occasionally I get “good enough.” Often I get just one little nugget out of four pages. But I gain sanity. I gain clarity. I clear the clutter out of my head and onto the paper. I release it from the jail of my mind and create space for more.