“Wow, these people are writers. I am not, but it’s such an honor to be in a group with them.”

I hear some flavor of this remark from at least one person after most Soul Writing workshops. I quickly shake off my disbelief and commence my “tish tosh” lecture: “Tish tosh, my good human! You’re out of your brilliant mind! Of course you’re a writer. Look what you did.” I quote their astounding written words back to them. I remind them of the group’s collective amazement at what came through them. I acknowledge how hard that is to believe. I assure them that it is nevertheless true.

I wonder how much of this gets through—mainly because I don’t know that my own writerliness has gotten through to me yet. I confess, I still sometimes sit in my own workshops going, “whoa. These people are writers. What the hell am I doing here?”


I didn’t start calling myself a writer until very recently. I know, why not? If I have been writing my whole life and none of it qualifies me, what on earth does? What about the galaxies of words I’ve amassed, published and otherwise, has me not be a writer?

What the hell is a writer, anyway? They’re not just the novelists, the journalists, the poets. Nor is it limited to the Very Important Job Titles with “writer” in them: screenwriter, copywriter, underwriter. Some of these don’t even involve much actual writing. I’m thinking, for instance, about late-night comedy writers sitting around a table tossing ideas to each other. Someone’s probably taking notes, but I doubt their word count, at least in that role, comes close to mine on a given day. But does being a writer have anything to do with the quantity of words?

See? It’s so damn arbitrary.

Ultimately, I took on the moniker in service to others—when I finally, fully committed myself to holding safe space for folks to do the scary, electrifying work of connecting with their writer selves. If I was going to insist that you are a writer, I supposed it would be easier for you to take in if an Actual Writer was saying it to you.

I understood, too, that nobody else was going to dub me an Actual Writer. I mean, maybe if I had spent years in an MFA program, or had a regular magazine column, or religiously took the stage at poetry slams, there would have been some official christening at some point. Maybe I would have gotten a patch to sew onto my jacket or a digital badge for my website (the writing you see on this blog was produced by an Official WriterTM).

As it was, for the sake of those I long to support, I had to claim it.


Turns out that the rogue decision to acknowledge this aspect of my identity as central changed everything. It’s what aided the pouring through of the manuscript I recently wrote (my first ever). It locked my sights on the memoir I need to write. Each day I watch in wonder and glorious frustration as my life organizes itself around this inevitable center point.  

I see now that it was never going to happen that other way: by waiting for some nameless future accomplishment to qualify me, or for someone who knows more to officially acknowledge my status. Nor was it about believing I could be a real writer, or working harder, or buckling down and finally proving my worth. It was simply about surveying the throughline of my life—the way it all wound around my writer self—and accepting that it was so.

And … check this out … people believe it! They have no reason not to. It’s what they’d been assuming all along anyway.

So I guess what I’m inviting is this: If Being A Writer is important to you, next time you find yourself in a place where two or more have gathered to write—and where everyone in that group is a Writer but you (because you said so)—try extending that assumption to yourself. I am writing. I have written. I am a writer.

Say it. See what happens.

I promise you, whoever put it in your head in the first place that you aren’t a writer—the 6th grade teacher who was ‘disappointed in your use of punctuation,’ the college professor who told you your essays were ‘all over the place,’ the ‘helpful’ peer who tore your burgeoning novel to shreds—isn’t going to going to suddenly materialize beside you and laugh in your face, though it might feel like they will.

Your voice, not theirs

What these people said to you feels real because they were trying to anchor you (and themselves) into the Real WorldTM: an airtight box into which the wiggly wonder of your imagination was never going to fit. They were never looking for your voice, your essence, the unique creation that is yours to bring into the world. They were looking to rules and precedents and standards: the structures that we assume are holding us together, but in cases like this are suffocating us.

And here’s a little more air for you to breathe: you’re never going to write like so-and-so in the group (ya know, the really brilliant, actually legitimate one, says you). Nor are you going to write exactly like your favorite poet or author or lyricist. Of course you’re not going to. You’re you. Can you rest into the freedom of that?

This is the most miraculous thing about Soul Writing—what I am willing to fly my own “I’m a writer” flag in service to. The writing, yes, but also the collective acknowledgment of each writer’s unique voice, creation, soul. A writer pulls a piece through, and the rest of us welcome it, bow to it, stand in awe. Yes, yes your voice is real, we say. Your words are valid. Your life, your creation, you are affecting me. You are changing things. You are a writer.

Yes. This. Yes.

Maybe you’d like to get [re]acquainted with your writer self… join us to do just that at an upcoming Mini-Retreat.