And it told me that I shouldn't be a writer, because I like being outside too much.
Which is hilarious, because liking being outside and being outside regularly are two different things. Additionally, there is such a thing as taking your laptop outside.
I see a lot of this laughable internet stuff - things like: "Ten Signs You Are Secretly a Writer". The first one is: "I have so many books I can't fit them in the house". The second one is: "I write on serviettes".
These are certainly not exclusive qualifications, and they're about as informative as Wikihow's Eleven Step tutorial on writing a good book on any subject. (It's as easy as all that: just eleven simple steps.)
So I thought I'd try writing my own list of seven "signs" that you're a writer. But I plan to base these as much on reality as I can.
1. You write down your daydreams, because you can't make sense of them otherwise.
Everyone daydreams. This isn't really a sign that you're a writer. But if you feel you have to write them down, because your head is so overcrowded you can't understand your own thoughts, then you have one of the traits of a writer.
2. You finish things.
The three words of doom. This isn't a matter of wanting to or not wanting to - it's just a matter of doing it. Make sure you finish what you are writing. Focus on one project, and complete it. This is an area that writers struggle with, but one of the marks of those who have made it is that they finish stuff.
3. 50,000 words or over isn't a big deal.
For it to be a novel, it should be over forty thousand words at least. I know colleagues who regularly pen over 100,000 words. Having a large word count is not a requirement, but it's a sign that getting words out is not a problem for you.
Naturally, this particular bullet point doesn't work for short story writers or picture book authors. I'm not saying that they are lesser authors, though. They have my undying admiration. There's a huge skill in saying a lot with a little. On that note:
4. You know how to say what you want quickly.
You don't write around the meaning, but you say what you intend in the clearest and quickest way possible, for maximum impact. A novel still won't be small, but it will be to the point. True writers are not wordy. They're clear; they're like sharpened arrows that have been stripped down so that they fly swiftly to their mark.
5. You understand people.
Somewhere along the way, you've been through something that's hit you very hard. And while you hated it, it's made you empathetic. You're able to look at people, remember your own personal rock bottom experience, and imagine as best as you can what theirs may be like. In general, however, you're able to step out of your own mind quickly and imagine what it is like to be someone else. It's this ability that will mean you write realistically about people.
6. You edit.
I really think this is a very big deal. To write is just not enough. You have to be able to revise your work and edit it; you have to ruthless with yourself. You must be able to sharpen your drafts until they are where they need to be. This is part of the writers job - not just your editor's, your manuscript assessor's, or your publisher's. You should be taking the most responsibility for it, because it's your work.
7. You want to be a writer.
For heaven's sake, it's not really about what you should be, or what other people think you should do. In some ways, it's not even about how talented you are. Everyone starts with someone else putting a pencil into their hand and teaching them how to write the letter 'A'. If you want the life of an author enough, you will work like a maniac to get to where you need to be. And it's in working hard that you will develop the skills you need to be a writer.
So if you want it - go ahead and do it.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I do think that each of these things is an important part of being a writer. I haven't spoken about perhaps one of the most important things, which came to mind while I was writing this: a writer should be happy to be more than a writer. Next week, I'll put together an article about this, in which I hope to debunk some of the common misconceptions of a writer's life.