At one point, do we cease being people who simply like to write and become bonafide writers? Is it after we’ve published a book? Two books? Do we have to get a MFA? Do we have to have a poem appear in the Atlantic Monthly?
I suppose everyone has their own answer to that question. I, personally, decided that that I was a writer when the act of writing (and reading to write) became an integral part of my daily life. Once, I asked a friend of mine who had an excellent physique and went to the gym everyday how he did it. He said “I go to the gym just like I go to work or lunch or anything else I know I have to do.” That’s how I’ve started to think about writing.
This isn’t to say that if you haven’t written a sonnet by sundown everyday, you’re slacking. The point is that you are actively engaged in the creative process at all times. One way to get into that kind of rhythm is to keep a writer’s notebook. Find a good quality notebook (I’m a moleskine man myself) and keep it with you at all times.
Poet Kim Addonizio treats her notebook like a collage of images & words she encounters throughout the day. When I come across a poem that really moves me, I copy it down in my notebook so that I can feel how the poem moves, how the lines work. I also write down ideas for poem titles, possible first lines, or even words that I would like to work into a poem one day. Sometimes I jot down notes for a personal essay I have in mind. Sometimes I just write about what I’ve been writing about lately (or haven’t been writing about).
When I have a creative block, one of the first things I do is read through old notebooks from beginning to end. It’s like going through a junkyard of my own making, looking for something to salvage among the wreckage.