I don’t consider “writer” to be my profession so much as I consider it one of my identities. Many activities can be considered both—I’m never entirely divorced from my legal leanings, I don’t just practice law, I AM a lawyer. I will be a lawyer to some extent even when I take down my shingle and allow my bar membership to lapse.
This has to do with how I view my life, how I think, how I approach the challenges I face. In the same way, I am a mom even when my Beloved Offspring is thousands of miles away. And so it is with writing for many writers. It’s undertaken when staring at the blank screen or blank page, but it can also pervade the rest of life—this is a wonderful thing.
Driving to an appointment with the acupuncturist one fall morning, I noticed way, way up on the mountainside across the valley a spanking new A-frame chalet with a winding driveway leading to it. I’m pretty sure it hadn’t been there the previous fall, and the views from it had to be gorgeous. By the time I’d reached the acupuncturist twenty miles away, I had most of a book put together: The guy living there was a cop in DC until he took a mostly spent bullet in the behind. It messed up his hip to the point where he could no longer walk the beat, and while he tried being a detective, it just wasn’t his cup of tea.
He started thinking up crime novels while doing his physical therapy and had since become a bestselling author… His neighbor at the bottom of the mountain is a single mom who owns a landscape business, and his new property surely does need some touches of grace and color to go with all that state of the art security. But Ms. Luscious Landscape has troubles, of course she does, troubles such as only a lonely, gimpy, reclusive former cop can solve with her.
I wasn’t in front of my computer when this idea wandered into my head, but I was a writer. I’m a writer when I’m in conversation with a friend, and she uses some lovely, under-appreciated word—fulminate, cogitate, animadversion—there are so many wonderful words. I toss it on the pile of words I’m going to remember to use in my next scene, and though I don’t have a pen in my hand, I’m a writer.
I meet my friend, Robin Kaye, for lunch. Robin has four great books on the shelves, and she’s managed this with three teenagers underfoot, all of whom are arguably special needs (who among us isn’t?). We don’t bring our computers along any more, but we bat around plot issues and parenting challenges, we hug each other and commiserate over the things a hug can’t fix—knowing those are the very things that can inspire really great books. And when we’re swilling our lattes—though not a word gets written—we’re writers.
So yes, put your backside in the chair, write and write and write, but even when you aren’t writing, the chances are good, you’re still a writer. You just are, and this is wonderful too.