I'm not sure if writers get growing pains, but I have something like that going on right now. After taking a three-year hiatus from writing and publishing, getting back into it feels just as pleasant as taking a stroll across a field of burning coals during a heat wave. Making the time to write and slaying the performance anxiety monster are half the battle--the other is actually trying to figure out who you are as a writer--not your process, but something a little more introspective than that.
The following questions (in no particular order) are some I've composed/complied to try to figure this all out. If you're looking to do a little self-reflection, give them a shot. Or if you're just bored and looking for a notebook prompt, that's cool too.
Ready? Set? Go!
What do you write?
I know this sounds a bit obvious, but having some idea of what you want to do (and knowing it's not set in stone) is a good starting point.
Why are you doing this, like, what's the point?
Maybe you want to write to get published and have your name on the bookshelves across the country. Perhaps you have a story you want to tell that you believe no one else can. Maybe you feel like no one around you listens and you just want to be heard.
What are your influences?
This is the book you read in 10th grade English class that made you think you could be a writer. This is a place for your writing heroes or for the ones you don't want to be. This is where that poem Langston Huges wrote about dreams that inspired you to write a chapbook goes. These are the folks, books, ideas that got you writing and got you to where you are now.
What's your inspiration?
Different from influences—this is where your ideas come from. This is where you look back and cringe at all the stupid crap you did and never want to tell anyone; but then you realize you're a writer and have to tell everyone.
What's holding you back?
You don't think you're a good writer. You don't think you have any fresh ideas that haven't been done before. You could be worried about offending someone. You're worried about critics. You don't want to receive a rejection letter. You don't know much about writing a book or where to start.
What does it mean to succeed as a writer?
You want to make it on the #1 slot of the New York Times Bestseller list. Maybe you hope publishers and editors of big-name houses will beg you to work with them. Or, you want to find your “people,” and build something together through writing.
What does it mean to fail as a writer?
Rejection scares you. You don't want to embarrass yourself in front of a publisher. No one shows up to the reading you host. You don't sell enough books. You think your ideas suck. The book you released receives negative reviews across the board.
What keeps you going?
When you do fail, this is what keeps you from throwing in the towel, copping out, walking way, and other euphemisms for quitting.
What are you reading right now?
A poet once told me, “You write what you read.”
What are you working on right now?
There are writers who write and writers who “write.”
Are you writing something you want to read?
If you're not, follow up question, why aren't you?
What are you hoping readers get out of your work?
You want to tell them a good story, you know, the kind with the hero that overcomes his challenges that brings out the underdog in all of us. Your poem might be a battle-cry or a call to action. Or maybe you just want to do some Inception-like mind meddling.
Do other people know that you write?
Maybe your ultra-conservative parents don't know you write poems about how you lost your virginity. Or your professors who are impressed you can write a coherent sentence and think you have potential. Maybe you're out there in random internet forums posting haikus and gained a following.
Have more questions? Thoughts? Post 'em below!