Nowadays "everyone's a writer," and writing is available so cheap. (Cheaply, yes, I know...but it would have ruined the rhythm of the sentence.)
But having the urge to write, or knowing your way around Dragon Dictate, is not the same thing as actually having the bug.
In the end I'm not sure this really matters. We all do whatever we do. But it seems important to know. Because if you are a writer, you have no choice but to write and you will have to build it into your day.
Here's how I figured it out:
1) I am impossible to live with unless I write every single day. I'll get into a bad mood and not know why, and then I know - I haven't written. You might think that writing is an incredible joy all the time, but it's not, necessarily. It's more like a physical need. And when I have writers' block, better get the hell away because that is even worse.
2) It's not about the money. In fact I worry that money would corrupt the writing. That's why the writing is personal, for the blog, and what I do for money is not at all synonymous with what I consider "my writing." I am obsessed with it and passionate about it for sure - but there is a clear and definite difference between my voice and the corporate one and I NEVER try to mix the two.
3) Bad writing bothers me. Like I saw a poster at Giant supermarket the other day. It said: "Forgot something? Don't forget a reusable bag." It bothered me that a variation on "forget" was used twice. I got worked up about it.
4) I argue with people who have a casual attitude about writing. I have had knock-down, drag-out arguments over web copy that was not clear. I have had year-long debates over the meaning of "brand" versus "reputation." It's a subject that feels very life-or-death. It is hard for non-writers to figure out.
5) A raccoon almost bit me because I wouldn't stop writing. We were on "vacation" but I was mad because I hadn't written so I took a time-out to do so. We were in the woods so I was sitting on a bench typing - alone. Suddenly I hear a scary croaking hissing noise to my left. It is that "oh s**t" moment you see in the movies. And realize I am about to get bitten big time. My first thought is, "G-ddamn it I can't finish my blog yet again?!!"
6) I'm jealous of people who I think are good writers. Penelope Trunk. Peggy Noonan. There are more. I want to be as good a writer as them. I feel inferior no matter what I write, because there are others who are better.
7) I have an easier time writing than speaking. People think that if you're a communicator you can communicate all the time, in any way, about anything. But the truth is that writers are better behind a screen. Writing.
8) I make a game out of subtracting words. There is nothing more irritating than the "500-word" requirement on many of my kids' class assignments. To me, it's so important to take words away. Say as much as possible in the least amount of time. This is a good part of the time I spend blogging. To do otherwise seems - well, inconsiderate and unkempt.
9) I observe the moment so carefully that I have trouble being in it sometimes. In my head I'm always taking notes for...something. So when I'm talking I actually am thinking about what I'm going to write later on. Not consciously but it's always there.
10) I worry that time is running out, and that I haven't written everything I'm supposed to. One day, when I'm old, I imagine sitting in Starbucks four hours a day and writing. Books, articles, blog, whatever...because I just feel like there's so much to say, and not enough time to say it. I worry about getting old and infirm before I can finish.
The only other thing I'd say about writing, is that it's not necessarily synonymous with grammar. I am as bothered as anyone else about spelling mistakes, typos, etc. But what bothers me more is if something interrupts the flow. When I read it's as if I'm listening to a piece of music. You can break the rules of composition as long as the song works, in the end.
Here's hoping this blog helps you all out, as I know it's helped me...because now, like a mosquito, my writing bug has drawn blood. And I can do whatever needs to get done in my day.