Something I’ve come to understand lately is that writer is an identity that cannot be suppressed or avoided by refusing to write. I know because, without realizing, I’ve tried.
As someone who earned a graduate degree in English Literature, someone who is constantly reading, I am sometimes asked if I am, or want to be, a writer. “No,” I usually reply, “I mainly just like to read and talk about books.”
What I don’t say, of course, is that the idea of claiming that label terrifies me. My thoughts may feel important and profound inside, but seeing them on paper (or screen), imagining people reading them—that’s another story. I am no one. My ideas are truly insignificant. The world doesn’t need another cis white woman’s perspective. I can’t say anything new that hasn’t already been said. What would be the point?
What is true, really, is that I am always writing. On the mornings when I don’t work at the coffee shop, when I’m sitting on my front porch drinking coffee and staring into the distance, listening to the birds chittering, I’m writing. When I go for runs and my mind wanders as I tread my favorite path toward the lake, I’m writing. When I’m driving around on my errand circuit after work in the afternoons, I’m writing. After I’ve closed my eyes at night, as I’m trying to turn off my brain and fall asleep, I’m writing.
I’m constantly narrating in my head; I can’t turn it off. What I’m not doing is writing those words and ideas down. So I say I’m not a writer.
But what is a writer if not an observer, a thinker, a composer, a documenter? I am all of those things. I am also afraid—that my words will be trite and unoriginal, that I will be judged, that no one will care.
I am a writer, but for some reason I often don’t write. I’d like to change that.