Maybe I’m Not A ‘Writer’ (And Maybe You Aren’t Either)

What I’ve learned from Andy Weir and Glynnis MacNicol about calling myself a writer.

Maybe I’m Not A ‘Writer’ (And Maybe You Aren’t Either)
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

A few weeks ago I succumbed to burnout. All the things piled until they became too much and I crashed.

If you’ve never been there, burnout feels like being in a hole, crushed under a pile of all the things you should be doing. Instead of doing all the things you resent having to do them.

Resentment takes A LOT of energy. Everything in life becomes a life-sucking chore. You muster up enough fuel to make it through the workday and invest in your relationships. Since your tank is almost empty, the fuel light comes on and everything else falls off the radar.

For me, that included writing anything not part of a paying deadline.

I attributed this to writer’s block. The ideas weren’t there. The desire wasn’t there. It was like swimming through honey. The more I thought about writing, the less I cared to write.

Once the signs of burnout became too large to ignore, I decided it was time to climb out of the hole and, as Emily Wilcox puts it, reignite my flame. This led me to Brené Brown’s amazing Dare to Lead.

In the book, Brené mentions she’s long ascribed to the mantra, “write what you need to hear.” So what is it I need to hear today?

I might not be a writer. And you might not be either.

To date, I’ve curated 15 editions of Write Now with 8 more in the publishing queue. This series interviews people who write for a living. I ask each of these writers how they overcome writer’s block. Their answers are telling.

From Andy Weir to Glynnis MacNicol and everyone in between, each of these amazing writers denounce and downplay the concept of writer’s block.

Glynnis MacNicol says, “I think you get over being ‘blocked’ fairly quickly when your rent is on the line: when you’re doing everything at a dead run, ‘blocked’ just means writing really shitty copy until you stumble on one good line and go from there.”

Andy Weir says, “No, my main problem isn’t writer’s block, it’s ‘writer’s lazy-assed work avoidance’. Sitting down and actually doing the work is hard and sometimes requires a huge amount of effort.”

Through the Write Now interviews I’ve learned what defines a writer: Writers write.

  • Writers write, they don’t make excuses for why they haven’t written. They don’t call it writer’s block or burnout. They sit down and do the work like their livelihood is on the line (because it is).
  • Writers write, they don’t ignore and put off writing to redesign their website or format existing pieces. While these things are important, they only help to enhance the words written. No matter how great your website looks, it can’t hide non-existent writing.
  • Writers write no matter what. When they get stuck, they refuse to give up and wait for the words to come. Instead, writers sit down and write anything until eventually, the right words come.

It’s easy to make excuses when writing isn’t your full-time job. I make these excuses all the time. “There isn’t enough time,” or “I can’t get the ideas flowing,” or “I’m stuck in this pit of writer’s block.” However, if you or I ascribe to be a writer, we need to write. Not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s difficult. Being a writer requires us to write.

While I may not be a writer today, I can put in the work and become a writer again. And you can too. All it takes is a little work. Sit down in your favorite spot, open your notebook or computer, and write something. Anything.

Let the words flow, even if they’re shitty. Especially if they’re shitty.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the Write Now writers it’s this: writers write.

Thanks to Ernio Hernandez for pushing me to write.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!