Diaries be Damned. There’s No One Way To Be a Writer

I don’t do diaries or journals and this gives me a lot of strange looks from people who DO do diaries or journals.

They usually gasp. “But you’re a writer!”

I am.

I am a writer.

I am a person that has to write just like I have to exercise and be outside. I am a miserable, horrible beast if I don’t get to do those two things for at least a half hour a day.

But you don’t have to fit into other people’s ideas of ‘what a writer is’ or labels in order to be a writer.

Almost all my teachers told me to write in a diary. All the good kids in grade school, the Kathy Albertsons (I love her) of the world, had these beautiful diaries where they’d write about their day and their feelings in perfect looping handwriting.

I was no Kathy Albertson, but I wanted to be.

So, I tried to write in my diary. There’d be two entries for a year.

My sibling looked at it, scoffed and said, “Carrie, you have no follow-through.”

Spoiler: I have a lot of follow-through. I just didn’t like writing in a diary about the most boring subject in the world–me.

This is the kind of quality entries, I had. Obviously, meant to be both an artist and author, right?

When I was little, I hated writing in my diary because I was positive that my life wasn’t interesting the way books were interesting. Plus, it took so long to write those words on the page and I was impatient for adventure. I wanted to be a spy, find Big Foot, save the world from bad guys and apparently constantly take the Lord’s name in vain and go straight to hell.

I also had big plans that never made it into my diary.

One teacher told me, “All writers write diaries, journals of their feelings. If you want to be a writer, you must journal!”

And I said, “Guess, I’m not a writer then.”

Spoiler #2: I’m a writer.

Spoiler #3 : I still don’t journal unless you count blog posts.

I ended up volunteering for so many groups once I was in middle school and through to adulthood. They were mostly social justice groups, human rights groups, politicians. I still didn’t write a diary more than twice a year. I joined a singing group and got paid. I canvassed neighborhoods by myself before high school. I did things and lived. Still, none of it got put in my diary.

As a reporter, I wrote columns that ended up being about the things I saw in my community. I’ve often been an accidental witness. I loved writing columns actually. They were probably my favorite things to write (other than features) in the newspaper world.

I still, however, didn’t write a diary.

And now, when I see the world that can be so angry, so full of hate and hurt, I still don’t write a diary even though I’m absolutely wowed by other people’s journals.

But even though I don’t write a diary or a journal, I write. I write novels. I write editorial assessments, poems, podcast, blog posts.

And that’s the thing.

There’s no one way to be a writer. There’s no one way to be a human.

And once we start putting those constraints on others and especially on ourselves, we lose our way and what was once a joy? It becomes a struggle. When we try to be someone wonderful–say Kathy Albertson–then we lose the person we are.

If you can and it works for you, try to write for a tiny amount of time every day if you want to be a writer. Make it a practice.

Write about yourself if you want, manatees falling in love with hamsters in the Joshua Tree park, vampires who are not apocalyptic. Write whatever you feel or want to. Poems. Journals. Parables. Jokes. Books. Write for the practice and write for the joy. Write because you don’t understand things. Write because you do. Write because you’re powerful. Write because you’re powerless. Write for control. Write for a lack of control. But write. Write if it’s what you want to do.

And if you hate writing every day? That’s okay, too. Remember. There is no one way to be anything but especially there is no one way to write, to art, to human, to sing, to shine.

And if you’re having troubles with writing, check out below.

Ask Yourself:

What makes you stop writing?

Why do you sometimes think you aren’t a writer?

What keeps you from writing?

What stops the words from flowing?

Sometimes just these questions can open up layers of your soul. Give them a try, okay?

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