When a writer is not a writer

By the very definition, a writer is someone who ‘writes’.  It’s something that infects the blood, drives you to finish that paragraph, become a stalker in coffee shops –  to listen in on conversations for character development, create an obsession with Pintrest with boards so weird and varied, you decide you need an alias login so you don’t need to explain the midget horse board or the 18th century womens’ underwear collection. Writing is that passion in the blood until one day something happens and you stop writing. Excuses and busyness lay hurdles in front of your writing. Suddenly, its months since you opened your writing files. You’ve stopped “writing”. You have nothing to write about. Many state it’s just a bump in the road, a slight case of writers block. But you know in your heart, it’s more like writers atrophy.

So when, along the journey, do you consider that you are no longer a writer? That you “hang up” your writing tools and “call it a day?”

I am a private person, who doesn’t share a huge amount of the turmoil and issues I have faced in the last few years; but feel its time to give light to some, in the hope that it inspires or motivates others.

Flashback 8 years and flash fiction writing was a living, breathing obsession for me. I had several vibrant blogs, loyal followers and built strong professional relationships with writers around the world though collaborative writing projects. I wrote new fiction every week, was part of an exciting editorial team, had begun my path in publishing and submitted a number of articles a month to various online writing websites. Writing both fiction and non fiction was an emotional outlet for me and a way to deal with the mounting personal issues my family was facing. In short, six months before my husband of 24 years eventually died from a horrific brain tumour, I stopped exploring words. I stopped sharing. My worlds became numb and my characters voices, once so clear; were silenced.

This halt to writing was no ordinary writers block. No manner of workshopping, brainstorming and doodling on blank pages could encourage words to flow again. I had access to excellent tools for creative blockages and over time, attempted to utilise them to kick start my lifeless passion.  Attempting to write even the briefest email has been excruciating. The great nothingness of depression has been an overwhelming and consuming entity living skin deep against my heart.

Once, I proudly wore that sly smile as I announced I was a writer, before giving a few details about my latest WIP. It took a lot of courage and self belief to go beyond the “faking it till you make it stage”. Now, I hide behind the statement of “I used to be a writer”; and even that feels false.  The journey back to ‘being a writer’ seems insurmountable. However, deep inside, there is a tiny flame which continues to flicker, waiting for inspiration to feed it, for passion to set it alight again.

Over the years, I’ve written some great columns, given great advice, coached and mentored many emerging writers, so for me, there is a huge slice of humble pie sitting in front of me to consume before I set off on my journey again. Though more than a bump in the road, I am hoping this diversion away from writing will prove to be a strength, rather than a hindrance to my overall journey.

I stand now, unable to claim to be a new writer; but unwilling to claim writer status. How many readers out there are able to empathise and stand with me in this no-mans land of writing? How have you launched yourself off again? What strategies have worked (or not worked?)

I would like to publicly thank the readers, writers and editors of Today’s Author for being so gentle with me over my absence. It is my intention to hang out here more often. Who knows, I may even start writing again.

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8 thoughts on “When a writer is not a writer

  1. Welcome back! I miss your wonderful articles. They are part of the reason I was excited to join Write Anything, so many years ago. Take your time, Annie. We understand.

  2. I haven’t quite had this happen with my fiction writing, but I’ve had it happen with my poetry. Often because I’ll be so engaged in writing my fiction or getting to the next fiction story I “forget” the work that led me there with more fire-like passion than anything else. I’ve fixed it before and I’m fixing it again.

    What happens is I start thinking if I should or can continue writing poetry. Then I start thinking of the projects that I’ve done in the past and I challenge myself to write more poetry. Especially during National Poetry Month.

  3. Thank you everyone for your private messages. I really didn’t comprehend how many virtual friends I have out there, who were touched or moved my my articles and writing ‘way back then’. I appreciate you coming forward and letting me know.

  4. Annie, I’ve read this post several times and am moved to tears, to silence each reading. Your pain is very deep, raw, but you are a writer, always.
    I wish you and your children well as you continue to plumb the grief that is strangling you. One day it will lessen and you will do something that will reveal you.

  5. I’m new around here and haven’t read anything by you so I’ll just say welcome back and I’m looking forward to more of your posts. And thank you for giving voice to my thoughts/experience/mindset in paragraphs five and six.

  6. You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write.
    The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe.
    Always go after your heart.

  7. i think writers are too hard on themselves- maybe it’s an artist thing. they get too wrapped up in what makes someone a ‘real’ writer. i agree that someone who has done nothing beyond imagine that writing a book might be cool- not a writer. but being a writer is more than your daily wordcount. i go months without writing and it doesn’t change anything. once, while grieving, i went more than a year. people get distracted by work, childcare, depression, life. it changes nothing. you are who you are. you don’t need validation that you’re a writer. not every writer is a tortured alcoholic who sacrifices everything else in their life for their art. we’re all different. sometime life interrupts the pursuit of art. life i short- don’t let what other people think define you. also, life is long- perhaps those years you weren’t writing will serve as the foundation for your greatest creation.

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