What’s a Writer?

By October 21, 2014Writing about Writing

A Conversation

“You changed your major!?”

“Yeah..its not a huge deal or anything.”

“Can you keep your job at the Writing Center?”

I dunno…can I?

A Memory

Summer of 2000 and some year. I spend a couple of days sitting in the stuffy loft of my suburban track home, typing on a keyboard that is slightly too big for my grade-schooler sausage fingers. The product of those summer days was the first story I ever wrote. I called it a “comic book” because it had one clip art image attached at the end. It told the story of a group of three friends: me, the childhood best friend I left behind when my family left rural Maryland, and his brother. Together we formed a superhero team called “The Weekend Warriors” (A name I stole from my favorite tshirt) who fought against the oppressive regime of school. It was awesome. There were dragons.

A Decision

I always considered that to be my first ever piece of writing. Maybe not mature writing, but it was the first time I sat down and pressed keys on a keyboard until I stopped. I showed that silly story to everyone, and it is one of my greatest failings that I lost the printed out version to water damage, and that the Word document was lost when the computer I wrote it on gave up the ghost.

I’ve certainly written better stories since then, I’ve even presented one at a conference, but I’ve never had as much fun writing as I did that first time. I’ve written for class. I’ve written to impress girls. I’ve written because I’ve had to. I can’t remember the last time I wrote just for fun.

And so I did what many of those closest to me though impossible. I gave up on being an English Major.

A Conflict

The first thought I had after deciding to change from being an English Major to being a Computer Science Major was:

“Am I still a writer?”

Hi, my name is Patrick, and I am a writer.

In one way or another, this is how I introduced myself for as long as I can remember.  When you are in college, your major defines you. For better or for worse. I was Patrick the English major. I was going to be a novelist, despite the objections of family. No I was not going to be a teacher.

Who am I without that?

A Writer

UCWbL Core Belief Number 1: Anyone who writes anything is a writer.

Every year, all the employees of the University Center for Writing-based Learning get together in the same place for All-Staff Orientation, and each year there is one activity or another that uses our Core Beliefs. I will be honest, I never really thought about those core beliefs other than at that orientation.  But now I found one of them coming back to comfort me.

There is not one thing that defines being a writer. You don’t lose your Writer Certification if you leave an English program. The only thing intrinsic to being a writer is getting the work of writing done. Writing is writing, whether you are writing an essay, a short story, a tweet, a computer program, or even a blog post. As long as you are putting words down, you are writing, and that means that you are a writer.

You are a writer when you write anything.

I am a writer.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Rachel P. says:

    In light of National Day on Writing, which was yesterday, I think this was a great topic to talk about, Patrick! I really liked that you recognized lots of different kinds of writing, which is part of what NDOW is all about. This made me think more thoroughly about some of the kinds of writing I do – writing lists, writing comments, writing papers – all kinds of writing! And I’m totally a writer =]

  • Jessie K. says:

    I really enjoyed your post, Patrick. Breaking it up into sections was a cool move. It was a fun read, and I totally agree with what you wrote.