“In my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” — Junot Diaz
Look through any writing blog under the sun and I guarantee, you will unearth a post detailing what to do about writer’s block—the ditch, the speedbump, the universal malaise that afflicts everyone, from high school students to James Joyce. Advice is repeated over and over again: Separate your writing brain from your editing brain. Listen to music. Read a good book. Dare to fail, and fail again, until suddenly you aren’t failing at all.
What many of these self-help sites fail to express, however, is the bone deep anxiety that writer’s block can cause. The act of calling oneself a writer is like signing a cosmic contract: As long as I can spill words onto a page, I have an identity; I know who I am. But as any post-modern work will say, identity is precarious. Succeeding in the past does not mean that success will come again. Writing is a bit like cliff diving, that way: No matter how many times you survive, no matter how sophisticated your equipment or how fair the weather, the rocks never get any softer.
The capitalist notion of success is no model to base your self-worth on. Being one of a thousand authors to be published does not make you any better or worse than anyone else. You are not a writer because you succeed; you are not not a writer if you fail. Because you know what? Writers write. You are a writer if you write well; you are a writer if you write poorly; you are a writer whether you write five words a day, or five thousand. No one can take that from you, least of all yourself.