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Discussion questions: Do you think you’ll always be a writer? Will a writer always be a writer, even if he or she stops writing? When (and how) did you decide to be a writer? Share your experiences in the comments.
I came to writing late, at least relative to most of my classmates in various writing programs. Throughout high school I didn’t care at all about it. In my first two undergrad stints, I dabbled in journalism but not with any vigor. Certainly not with enough vigor to avoid becoming a two-time dropout.
When I went back, in my mid-twenties, my academic advisor suggested that majoring in English would be my quickest path to finally graduating. Within the English major, she said, I’d be asked to choose a focus. Lit, for example, or technical writing, or media studies. I asked which would get me out the quickest. Creative writing, she said. So I signed on for that, with exactly zero eagerness.
Seventeen or so years later, here we are.
Your turn: When and how did you decide to be a writer? Let me know below!
Will a Writer Always Be a Writer?
It was still a few more years before I decided I wanted to pursue writing, and nearly ten years before I first published anything.
Not that there’s a standard. Writers start writing at all different ages.
And writers stop writing at all different ages.
In the discussion section of our “One Writer, One Question” post we talked about a sci-fi author named Dennis Schmidt, who came out with a string of novel series from 1978 to 1990 and then never published again. During his “short active career,” according to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, “Schmidt gave some impression of being an author who might at any point decide to break through into higher regions of his art; but stopped publishing.”
Three words so simple but so heavy: “But stopped publishing.”
There’s not much available info about Dennis Schmidt, and I can’t find any indication of why he stopped publishing at only fifty-one years old.
This of course doesn’t mean he stopped writing. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But sometimes, a writer just… stops writing.
In “Confessions of a Lapsed Writer” we talked a bit about what dictates a writer. If a writer goes months or even years without writing, is he or she still a writer?
Your turn: Will a writer always be a writer, even if he or she stops writing?
Will *YOU* Always Be a Writer?
For a few years I reviewed books professionally. Not as a full-time job, obviously; there’s so little money in it. But I did refer to myself as, among other things, a book reviewer.
The moment I quit reviewing books I stopped referring to myself as a reviewer.
If I stopped writing altogether, would I stop referring to myself as a writer? And if so, at what point?
I hope it’s never relevant: I doubt I’ll ever quit writing, at least for as long as I’m physically and mentally capable of it.
I think I’ll always be a writer.
How about you?
Your turn: Do you think you’ll always be a writer? Or do you plan to stop once you finish your current project? And if so, do you think that means you’ll no longer be a writer? Or once a writer, always a writer? Let’s talk about it below!
WriteByNight writing coach and co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.