Day Four: How did I become a writer?

slice-of-life_individual.jpgA good question – the how is interesting but for me I have to go back to when did I first start thinking of myself as a writer? What is my definition of a writer?  Who write? All that leads to how.

So I start with defining the word writer:  (pulled from the web)


 a person who has written a particular text.
“the writer of the letter”
  • a person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular occupation.
    “the distinguished travel writer Freya Stark”
    synonyms: authorwordsmith, man/woman of letters, penman;
  • a person who writes in a specified way.
    “Dickens was a prolific writer”
This definition at first seems fine but when you look at the examples it is clearly to small. It says the writer is someone who publishes the words they put down on paper. This thought leaves out so many people young and old who write often but who do not seek out the formal process of publishing their work for the world to see.
The folks with personal journals, the hidden stories or the not so hidden stories that children write for themselves or their classroom teacher – can all those be called writers?  This gets tricky because most of us have written for a teacher. We are required to write all through school. So does that make everyone a writer?
I think not. I think a writer is someone who write because they want to or needs to. A personal call to putting words down on paper. This type of writing might get published or it may always remain personal.
Here is where I begin to be able to define for myself when I began to be a writer. I wrote all through school.  I had to. I told my mother stories all the time and she would say go write them down I did not. I was not a writer. ( I secretly wished I was a writer but I was clear that was a task beyond me.)
I went through college seeking help from many while I wrote papers. I taught elementary kids for years. I taught them “writing”. I put that in quotes because those first years of teaching it was more about editing than writing. I gave them a topic, asked them to write and then we learned how to edit. I am not sure I could call that teaching writing and I was certainly not writing myself. No words were going down on paper, in a journal or a computer once those became all the rage.
So when did I start calling myself a writer? It started when I got talked into taking the summer Minnesota Writing Project in 2003. It was then that I began writing – yes, for the project assignments and my writing group but really I began to put words to paper because I wanted to and finally because I needed to.
I wrote stories about myself. I wrote short stories just for the fun of it and then I wrote two picture books (hiding in my computer files) and now I am working on a middle grade fiction novel (also hiding in my computer files). I started a blog about nature and then another one to write small moments (The Slice of Life). I began to think of myself as a writer because I wrote for me.
I became a write as an adult – when I was a teacher, a mother, a wife and so many other things but I added writer to the list because it was part of my daily or weekly routine. I wrote. I write.
I write because I like playing with words. I write because it is fun to see what happens when I start putting words down on paper or a computer. I write to get thoughts and ideas out of my head. I write because it feels like a challenge that I enjoy.
So it is an interesting question – how did you become a writer?

***This writing was motivated by a blog post from Tammy’s Reading Life. She posted it a few years ago and it looks like it was re written this last winter. Thanks Tammy for the great question.

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in blogging, journals, slice of life, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Day Four: How did I become a writer?

  1. Rajikins says:

    It’s interesting how you question who a writer is…those who want to or need to, with either published or hidden work. How did I become a writer? Food for thought.

  2. alexpapp says:

    So happy to find a post from a fellow MWP participant. It was truly a transformative experience for me. I was certainly a writer for this weeks. And, now, thanks to slice of life, I’m finding that joy again.

  3. I love your reflection on this definition. I connected to it a lot, since I have only recently identified as a ”writer”. Thanks for sharing!

  4. tbreitweiser says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful post!
    I am so happy that you write for you! Maybe it is time to bring out the children’s books and revise them.
    YOU are a writer…because you write.

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