"I’m not a writer," people often tell me. "But I’ve always wanted to write …" There’s no certificate or degree that makes you a writer. A writer is an identity you choose when you begin writing.
The only thing missing then, is action. Trust that longing and start putting words on the page.
Here are some signs that you're a closeted writer:
1. You love beautiful writing.
You appreciate writing that is careful, sculptural. You re-read sentences sometimes because … well, because they’re just so delicious. You sometimes read things aloud to hear how they sound. The words feel like delicious chocolates in your mouth.
2. You underline or highlight words, sentences or paragraphs in books.
You’re not one of those "don’t mark up your books" people. eBooks don't do it for you because you can’t underline things with your pencil or make notes in the margins. You have no idea why you do this, except for some inkling that someday you might want to come back to the places you’ve marked and re-experience that sentence.
3. You like to eavesdrop on people’s conversations.
Sitting in a café or at the bus stop, you listen in on conversations between people: grannies gossiping, spouses bickering, teenagers flirting and the banal and terrible stuttering and silences that happen between people.
Writers are good listeners. They imagine the stories behind the words. This is how we learn to write characters.
4. You love to people-watch.
You can sit and watch people go by for hours – the old lady walking her wobbly poodle, the way the man rests his hand on his girlfriend’s lower back, the rabbi in his black furry hat perspiring in the heat, the young mom with her whining toddler talking on her mobile phone. Writers are keen observers. They look deeply, watching the rhythms and textures of all human interaction.
5. You notice the spaces around things.
Not only do you notice what people say and do, how they look and behave, but you notice what isn’t there. The mother pushing the empty pram. The pregnant woman without a wedding ring. The guy in the bar who talks about his family. The newly renovated home that no-one moves into. The car parked at the end of the road that never moves.
Writers don’t skim across the surface – they look in, around, through and between things. They look for where stories hide.
6. Sometimes you read a book and think to yourself, "Even I could write better than this …"
You get seriously irate when reading a badly written book. Sometimes you wonder, "How did this get published?" Being able to recognize what works and doesn’t work in writing means you’re reading like a writer.
7. Sometimes, words make you cry.
A sentence can brings tears to your eyes. Words move you.
8. You have empathy.
If you're naturally empathic, you’re able to imagine what it’s like to be someone else – a person in a wheelchair, homeless, kidnapped, raped, childless, lost … Writers imagine what it’s like to be other people all the time. They create fantasy worlds.
9. You have celebrity crushes on authors.
No matter how nerdy. John Green, Need I say more?