What is your writing identity?

Posted on February 22, 2014

When we are clear about who we are as writers—what we write, and for whom—we can create more coherently and productively. The tricky part is that people evolve. Life stages and life events shape us. The words we read and write transform us. And the company we keep mirrors us in ways that influence our path.

For many years, I thought of my creative writing and marketing writing as two entirely separate enterprises. Because they were. And I thought of my lifelong pursuit of personal evolution as something having nothing to do with my writing life. Even though writing was always my primary transportation through healing toward growth and clarity and authenticity.

Now, 30 years after I started writing poems in my pink suburban bedroom. 20 years after I started writing professionally. 44 years after my journey on earth began. My sense of myself as a writer and a human has coalesced. I can see and appreciate how writing poems makes me a more strategic business communicator. I can see how being a fiercely loyal friend makes me the kind of teacher that keeps people focused on their greatest potential. And I have committed to writing in service to others seeking transportation through transformation.

I have come to accept that the writing life is expansive enough to hold my many refractions, and that these all add up to the whole of what I have to give. Today, I see my writing (and teaching) identity like this:

Stories are the currency of life and business. I want to help you tell your stories in the ways that best achieve your goals. Whether you want to sell more, write better, or heal well, I can help you write the words that take you there.

The going wisdom for writers is: specialize. And as useful as it is to hone in on a specialty or two, this kind of focus runs the risk of missing the big picture of who we are as people and writers. Is your writing identity expansive enough to include all of you? Is there some dimension of your life that is always accompanied by writing that you aren’t inclined to think of as a “legitimate” part of your writing life? Are you living and writing by an idea of who you are that could use a bit of updating?

I invite you to sum up your writing life in three sentences right now. Then share them with us right here in the comments. Declaring who you are as a writer is alchemical. Knowing where you’re headed and what makes your engine go can make you unstoppable.

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If you’d like a little extra support clarifying your writing identity—and leveraging this clarity to sustain momentum in your writing life–join us for the Finding Your Stride workshop in Portland, Oregon! Christi Krug, guest Laura Stanfill and I will be sharing our best strategies to help you make 2014 your most potent writing year yet! Classes start March 4. Learn more and register. 


  1. Barbara McDowell Whitt
    February 22nd, 2014 @ 7:42 pm

    In the beginning, writing pen pal letters, entering contests and submitting stories was my focus.

    In the middle, recording nightly diary entries provided skills in observation and reflection and documented a journey.

    In the end, the Internet has been my pride and joy, confirming my conviction that “there has to be a better way” was indeed true.

  2. Sage Cohen
    February 23rd, 2014 @ 4:32 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey here, Barbara! I love how letter writing anchored your writing practice…That was one of my foundations, as well…And diaries offer such powerful witness to our lives. Hooray for “a better way”…Good to be with you here.

  3. Tyaga
    February 24th, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

    At thirteen years old, writing began as a way for me to understand myself, the world around me and how we fit together.
    I found that putting pen to paper gave me the safest place to outline the horrendous memories of my childhood, hold my inner child’s hand and be witness to her truth.
    In the sacred space I created through decades of journaling now, writing has been my greatest therapy as well as proving to be one of my strongest assets for communicating what I have learned.

  4. Sage Cohen
    February 24th, 2014 @ 9:39 pm

    Powerful alchemy, Tyaga! You are seeing yourself through…writing yourself through. I’m honored to have taken a few steps alongside you!

  5. Allegra
    February 25th, 2014 @ 7:02 am

    What a challenge your invitation is! To proclaim that I have, indeed, a writing life! Wheee!

    My writing life is inconsistent on the page, yet a significant and formative part of my life. At best, writing is my medium of revelry, reverie. Nowadays, shy words tuck behind the curls of my daughters hair – framing her face, hands, and my days with absolute delight and nary a written mark. ;)

  6. Sage Cohen
    February 25th, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    Allegra, Wheeee, indeed! Such a beautiful description. Your anchoring in the writing life is palpable. And I know very well how the writing life lives through our presence with our children in the early years when it does not necessarily find its way to the page…

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