If you were born to write and you know it, you don’t need anyone’s permission to claim the title.
You are a writer because it is, and has always been, a part of the fiber of your being. You came up with stories in your head ever since you were a child. Your imagination transformed toys into heroes and villains, common household locations became extravagant settings, and bath time always featured vast aquatic landscapes. You pretended you were a newspaper journalist and documented the goings-on of your neighborhood, your friends, or what the weekly trip to the grocery store had been like. Or, if you were at all like me, you folded several blank pages of printer paper hamburger style, stapled the folded side several times, and wrote stories in these homemade books, complete with colored pencil illustrations on each page.
My single greatest joy and comfort in this world comes from the stories and characters I create. When everything around me fails, I find solace and deep catharsis in exploring the unknown territory of my imagination. I pour all of my pain, sorrow, grief, hope, happiness, and love into what starts as abstract, mysterious characters caught in a predicament. Their roughly-hewn forms begin to haunt me, and the precarious circumstances in which they find themselves becomes my playground. As they talk, think, and move through the story, I watch them develop on the page. And as they reveal themselves to me, I learn a little bit more about myself. One way or another, everything I have experienced in my life has weaved its way into the substance of my novels. Because of that, they are an intimate part of who I am. They don’t just bear my name, but the invisible mark of my essence.
Friendships and love interests begin and end; family members pass away. The hopes, joys, and cares of the world blossom and wither before our eyes, but writing will always be there for us.
In my twenties, I naively believed that I had to “earn” the title before I could ever personally or publicly identify as a writer, specifically an author and novelist. And the only way for me to earn that title was for my work to be “chosen” by a traditional publishing house and therefore deemed “worthy” of publication and distribution.
Now, at thirty-two, with three novels under my belt and a fourth on the way, I have finally died to the desire of being “chosen.” I am a writer. That is my identity. I am an author. A storyteller. My desire to share my stories with others, to make my own humble contributions to the larger body of literary work that exists in the world and appreciate the contributions of others in return, eclipses the ridiculous notion that I must sit in some imaginary waiting room for a publisher to grant me their approval before my work may be shared with the world. Most importantly, I have learned that traditional publication is not the definition of success. It certainly does not guarantee enduring commercial success for one’s work.
Wherever your passion for writing finds itself, be it in fiction, non-fiction or journalism, publishing companies, newspapers, and magazines are a business. They do not publish people’s work for posterity, or for the sake of advancing literature as an intimate form of human expression, and certainly not for the innate human desire to communicate ideas. They want to make money. They have an agenda. Their decision to choose someone else’s manuscript or article has nothing to do with the worthiness of your own. It’s just business. Believe that.
You should also believe that you don’t need anyone’s permission — publisher, literary agent, editor, or otherwise — to step into the fullness of your identity. Those things all are tools that can help you hone your craft, build a platform, and make money, but they can’t impart you with an identity. It is your inexplicable compulsion, your absolute devotion, your insane love and complete need for the craft of writing that defines you.
You are a writer. Believe it.
Amy Hay is an independent author of fantasy fiction and seeks to share unique, powerful stories with her readers. Her work has been described as moody, transformative, psychological, and genre bending.
She is the author of the Spirit of the King trilogy and is currently working on her fourth novel.