March 2015. As it happened, I only wrote this a few months before landing the opportunity for my first book. But by that point I was resolved to begin thinking about myself in a different way. As far as I was concerned, 10+ years of regular writing was enough of a sign that I could call myself a writer. That I've been able to sign book contracts since then has been a bonus.
I have been keeping this blog for over 10 years. That's a long time and a lot of words. Near the beginning, it wasn't something I took too seriously.
But as tends to happen, I started reading other blogs. Some seemed similar to mine: light reflections on ministry or daily life or whatever passing thought that popped into the person's head and demanded sharing.
Other blogs, however, were Serious Blogs by Serious Writers. Each post clocked in at thousands of words and garnered hundreds of hits and had dozens of comments and were leading to Serious Book Deals and Serious Feature Articles in Serious Magazines.
This all caused me to want to be a Serious Writer, too. A Real Writer. Not just one who played around on his little internet toy but who'd be scoring some of those same articles and books.
Just to show how Serious I was, I started mentioning it in my bio. I'd list myself as an "aspiring writer" or "writer wannabe." Something that said to the world that I wasn't there yet, but if you kept paying attention, I'd make it someday. I'm going to keep aspiring and pining and working and striving to be a Writer.
Lately, it seems like colleagues are signing book deals left and right. Just in the past few months, people I know have shared the good news of sending their contracts back, ready for the next step. This, too, has motivated me to keep aspiring, keep driving toward the big goal, and I, like them, will be a Writer, too.
In 2010, I attended the Festival of Homiletics in Nashville. Lauren Winner, a Real Writer, was speaking. At one point, almost as an aside from her main point, she said to us, "You who are in ministry are in one of the professions that demands the most writing. Between sermons and newsletter articles and guest columns in local newspapers, you're writing all the time. So stop saying you want to be a writer when you grow up."
The truth of that didn't hit me until a few weeks ago, when I thought about the last 10+ years that I've spent in this internet space. I thought about the articles that have made it into cyber or print magazines. I thought about the contributions to books. I thought about the couple of posts that have gone viral. I thought about the strong desire to get up every morning and think about what new thing I want to say here that transcends any short-term mental block. I thought about how I can't not write, whether through my work or on this blog or in my Moleskine notebook. It's a compulsion that transcends status and page views and publishing dates; something that I need to do whether those things are factors or not.
I thought about all of that, and decided to quit.
I decided to quit pretending that I haven't been a writer for the past decade. I decided to quit "aspiring" and being a "wannabe," because I'm already there. I decided to quit measuring my status as a Real Writer against a bar that only I set up for myself to begin with. Even if I still hope to achieve certain goals, they won't make me a Real Writer.
They won't make me a real writer, because I already am one.