Creatively Thinking: The struggle of claiming the title “writer”

Writing a book is weird and hard. I know..not hard like farming or construction or being a doctor or a police officer. I don’t mean that, of course. I mean, it’s mentally draining and it’s full of a lot of self-doubts, even if you’re just doing it mainly for fun like I am.

I am at the tail end of the first draft of ‘A New Beginning‘ and it is kicking my brain to the curb. I stare into space, trying to work out an issue I’m having with it or writing a scene in my head while I’m cooking dinner or a kid wants to show me something. It’s a bit like being stuck in a self-made prison and even when you try to escape it, your muse or whatever it is comes back and whispers “Hey! I have another idea! Let’s go write!” That is all fun and aggravating at the same time. Why won’t my creative muse pick a different time to try to inspire me.

I could completely relate to the author in Stranger Than Fiction, which we watched this week because I saw me in her tortured behavior as she tried to finish her book, without the extra alcohol and cigarettes. Writers don’t just write because they like it or they want others to read it.

Stranger Than Fiction

They write because they have to, because if they don’t it will gnaw at their insides until they are raw and aching for release or numb and depressed, begging to be put out of their misery. It’s like a painter or a photographer or anyone who creates in some way.

They have to create or their spirit wilts from the lack of artistic, creative stimulation. When you are a creative person, you can only wash so many dishes, cook so many meals, sweep so many floors, milk so many cows, assemble so many parts for cars or machines, before your spirit screams at you to breathe life into it again.

You have to do all those mundane things of life, of course, and sometimes you don’t mind doing them, but sometimes you need to do something creative as well.

I made my living as a writer for 14 years or so, but never really called myself a writer. That’s weird, I know. I still don’t call myself a writer. I’m not really that good, I tell myself. Slapping a label on myself like “I’m a photographer” or “I’m a writer” feels weird. I can easily say “I’m a mom,” because I have the kids to prove it. I can say, “I’m a wife,” because I have the husband to prove it.

Art, though, is subjective. I can feel like a writer or a photographer or an artist but until someone says I am, I’m not, or at least that’s what I think some days.

Last week, sitting by the tub, waiting for my daughter to finish one of her epic-long baths, I rambled out loud my debate about enrolling my one and only book in Kindle Unlimited or not, as if a 5-year old cares.

“I like your job, Mama,” my daughter said.

“What job?” I asked, since I, and the state of Pennsylvania, think of myself as “unemployed.” It says so, right on our taxes: unemployed, which in the United States also seems to mean “uninteresting, unimportant and unworthy.”

“You’re writing job,” she said with a grin, spinning in the water. “You’re a writer.”


My 5-year old thinks I’m a writer and, in the end, what my family thinks is all that matters anyhow.

16 thoughts on “Creatively Thinking: The struggle of claiming the title “writer”

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  2. For IRS purposes, as Indie Authors selling our own books, our Principal Business or Professional Activity Code falls under Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation: 711510, Independent artists, writers, & performers. That’s what I put on Schedule C when I file my federal tax forms. (I have no tax liability because I don’t sell enough books to meet the minimum for self-employment tax, but I still file.)

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  4. Love this so much. And what did Billy Crystal say in Throw Momma From the Train? A writer writes, always. And you do – you are definitely a writer. Although I love that your daughter thinks of you that way, how validating, honestly. Because you are right, those are the opinions that matter the most. 🙂 And do it – yes, put your book on Amazon!


  5. Oh this made me cry, Lisa! The heart of a child is such a precious gift. Right in the middle of hard times, they plop a little sentence that stops us in our tracks because it is full of such simple truth. Yes! You are a writer, a beautiful, gifted writer, sharing the stories that you have been given. I’m so glad to be able to read your words here.

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    • I don’t want to run myself down but I feel your words are beautiful and sometimes mine are just silly. But I guess sometimes we need silly for our hearts too 😉 I hope you are doing okay, Bettie, healthwise and spirit wise.

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      • Oh I feel the beauty of your words, Lisa! I think that is what is so precious as we share–God brings the beauty in the sharing! You have brought encouragement to me as you have shared your struggles too. It helps so much to know that we are not alone. I’m having a painful flare-up this week of my RA, but I see my Rheumatologist this Friday. So I really appreciate your prayers and kind thoughts! And, I struggle over calling myself a “writer” too. I just share words on my blog–how could that be a writer? I guess the Lord knows that we all need His help to look at ourselves the way HE sees us. Blessings and love to you tonight!

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  6. I love this post Lisa, it is so sweet. You are too a good writer and add photographer to that too. So true about having to create when that is what your soul cries out for, it is our soul food for sure. When ever I feel not 100% myself because something is triggering me or taking me to a place of toxic I always go to my create spaces. Those spaces where we can be anything we want. Your daughter sounds like a very old soul (such a sweet little girl) you should listen to her…you are a writer and remember to always tell yourself that you are a good one too. The most important lesson for all the creative souls out there is not only to share the love they have in themselves by sharing the beautiful things we create but to also learn how to love ourselves and those special gifts we were given to create for the world.

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    • Creative outlets are definitely where I go when I am stressed or need to shut the world out. Thank you for your kind words. You put it so lovely. Interestingly, I’m listening to a sermon that is similar to the post I wrote. Hmmmm…maybe someone is telling me something.


  7. Agreed – I think we all have those moments. Have you ever read Miss Buncle’s Book, by D.E. Stevenson? It’s one of my favorites. It’s just light fiction in some ways, but it’s so human and understanding, and it’s fun to see a writer writing about a writer who is writing about a writer.

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  8. I totally get it. Like you, I used to write for a living but still had trouble calling myself a professional writer. For years, I still wrote but did so volunteering my services for others without any pay because I was just a stay-at-home mom (why do we say “just”?). Writing sat on the back burner once I re-entered the work force. But after our last child left the nest, that’s when I started writing from my heart for myself mostly in my blog. All of these years later when my official title is “retired,” I still hesitate to call myself a writer and that novel I started remains unfinished.

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