One thing last weekend's book signings taught me is I can spot a writer within the first few moments of speaking with them. Even though they say, "No, I'm not a writer" I can still see the yearning in their eyes. Because writing is a yearning. It's the desire to express ourselves even if we don't understand why.
My mother gave me a diary for my eighth Christmas. It had a little clasp and lock. It was supposed to give me a sense of privacy so I'd be able to write without fear. Yet, I remember censoring myself. At eight, I understood that some things aren't meant to be put to paper, lock or no lock.
Today when I write in my journal, I feel the same way. Only now I'm thinking about the generation that will come after me. Do I want them to see my self-deprivation? Or hear my venting? Or witness my distaste?
Novel writing is an out. While a writer does have to answer for the beliefs, attitudes and prejudices of his characters, he can hide behind the fiction. If he's a good writer, he's not his characters and they aren't him. To master his craft, it's essential that he be honest.
Some of the writers I met last weekend are still at the stage where they worry they have nothing to say or no time to say it. What will their family think? How will friends deal with this new side to their personality? Truth is: they may not get it, but every other writer they meet will.
That's what separates writers from everyone else. Succumbing to the yearning. What separates good writer from bad writers is the need to be honest. They must reach down to the bottom of their gut and write the truth. Yes, it's a scary process. But that's where the source and desire to write comes from. All a new writer has to do is recognize the fear of discovery, ignore it and learn to write what's in his heart instead of what he thinks others want to read.
When I hear wannabee writers say they don't have time, my first response is, "Make time." When they look at me with skepticism, I know the yearning isn't strong enough. If instead, they nod and commit to even 100 words a day, I see success in its earliest form.