Skip to main content
Publish date:

Yes, Virginia, You Are a Writer

In a time and year that has been hard on so many in a variety of ways, more than a few writers have found their creativity dry up. Some have even asked if they are or should be writers moving forward. This open letter is addressed to all such writers.

Whether we're measuring things by lives lost, economic hardships, or wholesale changes to actions and behaviors that were normal and commonplace this same time last year, 2020 has been (and continues to be) a hard year. And that's true for writers as much as anyone else.

I've seen you and heard you on social media saying things like, "I can't find the motivation to write. I don't know what to write. That is, I don't know what to write that matters. There's so much, too much, and I can't focus. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to write again. I'm not sure if I consider myself a writer anymore."

I know; I've been you myself. I've felt all the same feelings, including that existential writing question, "Am I still a writer?" Meanwhile, I've been thinking about that response from editor Francis Pharcellus Church to eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon's question, "Is there a Santa Claus?" 

yes_virginia_you_are_a_writer_robert_lee_brewer

And so with both thoughts rumbling around in my head, I want to answer the former question for you, but also for me. Because I know there have been times I've needed this answer during "dry times" in my life and that I'll likely need this reminder again in the future:

Yes, Virginia, You Are a Writer

Virginia, one thing I know as an absolute truth is that there will always be people on this planet quick to point out what you are not and what you cannot do. With the precision of a Google search, they will pull up all your flaws and let you know why you don't measure up. They'll pin lists of reasons why someone else is better or more qualified, and I urge you with all my spirit to avoid enabling these thoughts, whether they come from someone else or—worse—yourself.

Yes, Virginia, you are a writer. In fact, as my wife would say, we are all born writers. Our minds process a variety of senses each and every day, whether it's the smell of honeysuckle, the taste of peppermint, or the sound of water splashing against rocks. And our hearts beat with love, fear, pain, regret, anticipation, and other feelings—some of them without words to express. And so, we feel doubt, because the language escapes us.

Still, if we didn't have a word for human, we'd still be human. Or to quote Shakespeare, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," and Shakespeare himself was faced with the need to create many words. But you don't have to create a language—not even one new word—to be a writer. Rather, it's something innate, something that beats within your heart (you know if you've felt it), and though it may have grown dormant—like a volcano, it can erupt again.

If you breathe air, love life, think thoughts, feel emotions, then you're a writer. Do not let the lack of words now discourage you from being who you are meant to be. Perhaps you're still processing the world, but if you open yourself, the words will come. Believe it like you believe this planet will continue spinning from one day to the next. The words will come!

They will slip into your mind while you sleep. They will touch the very tip of your tongue while you talk. They will—eventually—work their way through your pen or your keyboard, and you will once again be face to face with them, and they will be yours. The words will come! Even this moment, they are making their way to you.

15 Promotional Ideas for Nonfiction Authors

15 Promotional Ideas for Nonfiction Authors

For the introverted writer, the process of promoting your book may seem to be a daunting, even frightening undertaking. Here, nonfiction author Rick Lauber lays out 15 promotional ideas for authors to get their books into as many hands as possible.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 26

For the 2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a Well Blank poem.

Black Friday Savings 2021

Take Advantage of Our Black Friday Deals This Weekend

At Writer's Digest, there's no need to get up early or push and shove at stores to get your Black Friday deals. In fact, we give you the whole weekend to take advantage of them. Check them out here.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Break

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Break

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, your character receives an unexpected break or benefit.

The Joys and Challenges of Writing About Food

The Joys and Challenges of Writing About Food

Food takes on a main role in Annabel Abbs' novel, Miss Eliza's English Kitchen, where research incorporated all the senses. Here, she discusses the joys and challenges of writing about food.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 25

For the 2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a thankful poem.

How To Turn an Idea Into a Chapter Book Series

How To Turn an Idea Into a Chapter Book Series

From finding the idea to writing the manuscript and sending it off to agents, author Christine Evans maps out how to turn an idea into a chapter book series.

8 Tips for Developing a Thrilling Espionage Premise

8 Tips for Developing a Thrilling Espionage Premise

Maintaining tension and high stakes requires careful attention in the writing process. Ambassador Philip Kaplan offers 8 tips for developing a thrilling espionage premise that helped him in writing his debut book, Night in Tehran.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 24

For the 2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a response poem.