A while back I wrote a bit on the notion of whether or not someone is a writer, prompted by a mean response from Brian Michael Bendis. Even after posting it, I’ve mulled it around a bit. It sometimes takes me a while to process something, and the processing never really ends.
The thing that I keep thinking about is this: Harper Lee.
In 1960, she published To Kill a Mockingbird. It was a bestseller and won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. She published a couple essays after that, but that’s it. According to Wikipedia, she started writing a couple other books, one of them in the 1980s, neither of which she finished.
In 2011, a friend of hers shared the reason she gave for not writing again. “Two reasons: one, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.”
But she did start writing other stuff at one point. I wonder at what point she went from working on other projects to not writing anymore. Did she have writer’s block?
If Harper Lee had said she had writer’s block for 20+ years, would you say, “Maybe you’re not a writer?”
Not every writer is Harper Lee. Heck, some writers aren’t even Dan Brown. But if you hit a slump of any sort, at what point do you lose your ability to call yourself a “writer”? There’s no answer beyond the one you decide to believe in. The only real thing you can say that if you aren’t writing something, nothing is getting written.