Like most things, we only really become that thing we want to be when we start acting like it. Like Private No-Stripes, we need to develop not just the habits, but the mindset to really move up in the world and not feel like a recruit. We need to focus, and write regularly, and act out those habits until we no longer think about them. Once we fall into the habit of writing as a way of managing our ideas, we become a writer. As we think about how to present an idea as a story or an essay, that writer in us grows. As our writer kit fills with tricks and tools and we use them more and more, we establish ourselves as official writers. We earn that first stripe, and nobody can question that we are writers.
More than likely, we will question it for a while, but that's a different hurdle to conquer.
I often mention the pen and stack of Post-It notes by my bed. This is a writing habit I developed years ago, and it was pivotal in the creation of my first published story. In the middle of the night, my mind starts throwing around ideas for no particular reason. We all get that restless mind thing now and then, but with me, it happens to the point where I decided to grab the weird ideas and write them on Post-It notes. It helped me sleep, but also provided fertile ideas for the writer in me. The pad will be tucked full of writing prompts, some of which are even readable.
These might sound weird, but here are a few:
- Why are some colors allowed to be first names? (Scarlet, Violet...)
- Does evolution know when to stop?
- The deepest fear of the monster under my bed
- My God-parents meet my Devil-parents
- My cats learn to count
- The suburbs of Heaven
Do any of those make sense? It doesn't matter. Somewhere in my mind, a group of tired synapses brought out some weird ideas, and get triggered when I read the note. As a person trying to sleep, I'm not concerned about writing. However, the once I am awake, writer in me sees a chance to explore. I saved them for writing prompts on those days when I want to write but don't have any ideas really jumping at me.
Does doing this make me a writer? Well, not on its own. However, acting upon it gets me closer. As I mentioned before, one of those little notes became my first published story, "The World's Biggest Snowball Fight." (a polished draft can be read at this site).
I like to think that such commitment was what gave me my first stripe.