I stumbled upon a Medium post by Jill Reid the other day entitled “The Top 10 Signs You’re Really Cut Out to Be a Writer.” It caught my eye and I thought, sure, why not? So what if I’ve been at this thing for 40 years or so, depending upon how you count. So what if I’ve written and published literally thousands of articles, essays and reviews. So what if I’ve had two books published with a few more on the way. Isn’t it time, I thought to myself, to find out if I am really cut out for this work? How can I be sure I’ve made the right decision? Why not read the article and find out?
According to the author, the first sign that you’re cut out to be a writer is that “You Get Truly, Deeply Enthusiastic About Writing.” That certainly struck a chord. I’m deeply enthusiastic about writing at least half the time – pretty much always when I’m not actually writing, and sometimes when I actually am writing. Score one in the “cut out to be a writer” column.
Number two is “You Wake Up at Night with Ideas, Phrases, and Storylines.” I am dedicated and devoted to a complete and uninterrupted night’s sleep, so this doesn’t really apply to me. I do, however, often awaken in the morning or an afternoon nap brimming with ideas.
Which brings us to point three, which says, “You Keep a Pad and Pen by Your Bedside to Remember All the Stuff You Thought of While Lying Awake.” Not just by my bedside. I keep pads and pens strategically located next to every place in my house where I might sit down, and I carry pens and pocket notebooks with me every time I leave the house. They serve as both my tools and my passport.
The fourth indication that one is cut out to be a writer, according to Reid, is that “You Often Pause Mid-Sentence During a Conversation to Make a Note.” Hang on a sec, I just thought of something…. OK, I’m back. Yes, I sometimes do that. I’m sorry.
Number five is “You Put Your Phone on Mute so You Can Write.” Not only my phone, but I also close all web browsers and social media apps and email inboxes and I even notify my most beloved ones that I’ll be writing for the next two or three hours and they shouldn’t think I’m ignoring them – even though I am – when I don’t reply to their texts, and I’ll let them know as soon as I’m done.
Number six goes without saying: “You Don’t Publish a First Draft — Ever.” Of course you don’t. Writing is not vomiting. Writing is rewriting. That’s often the most fun part. If you don’t like to rewrite, why would you choose to be a writer? Go be a stockbroker instead.
I’m not sure I even understand number seven: “You Don’t Question Your Initial Thoughts, and You Always Question Your Final Ones.” I suppose that’s one way to go about it, but I can’t say I’m not questioning everything I’m writing as I’m going along, although I do understand the benefit of just jumping in and writing a bunch of words before you even have a chance to figure out just what it is you are saying.
I’m definitely partial to number eight: “You Edit the Piece and Save All the Parts You Cut — Just in Case.” There have been plenty of times when I’ve written a piece that goes on too long or veers off to become the beginning of a second or parallel piece. Why wouldn’t you trim the excess and use it as the raw material for another piece?
Number nine is “You Hesitate to Push the Publish Button and, Instead, Review Your Work for the Fifth Time.” I probably should do this more often, but at this point I can usually get it done by the third pass rather than the fifth. This is writing, after all, not rocket science.
Reid ends her “Are You Cut Out to Be a Writer” test with “You Feel Excitement and Accomplishment When You Finally Press ‘Publish’.” That’s partially true, but for me, it’s always counterbalanced by an equal amount of fear and loathing over the possibility that I’ve humiliated or embarrassed myself in print.
So, in sum, I guess I am, after all, somewhat cut out to be a writer.