Sunday, August 21, 2016

Who Are You?

Posted by: CobraMisfit
“You’re a writer? What are you working on?”

At some point, every writer has been asked some version of these questions. Sometimes it’s in passing, other times it's in earnest. It might be family, friends, random acquaintances, or even friends of friends who somehow sniffed out that you're working on a story. Spend enough time penning one or a hundred-thousand words and someone is going to question you.

The issue is, a lot of us have no clue how to respond. Or, if we do, we start to realize that it’s a lot harder to explain what it is we actually do. Halfway through describing our Epic-Zombie-Western Sci-Fi-Self-Help Cookbook, it begins sound less epic than it did in our heads.

That can be disconcerting. It might even make us begin to doubt this chosen path. Are we really worthy of calling ourselves “writers”? Why bother when there are so many great stories already out there? What can we possibly bring to the market/genre?

The thing is, we don’t have to have all the answers. But being able to ask ourselves the questions can help point us in the right direction. Not only when it comes to our identity, but our goals as well. 

For me, one of the best examples of self-examination is The Four Key Questions of Babylon 5*. Each species or person asks these of the main characters, all of which helps to define both their motives and, ultimately, their destinies. 

Who are you? – The Vorlon Question

In my opinion, this is the hardest one to answer. Figuring out our writerly identity can be a challenge because so many of us simply have no idea. Are we hobbyists? Professionals? Lovers? Dreamers? Business people? Activists? Maybe we’re some or all of the above. We don’t always have to have a firm grasp on our identity, but asking this in the mirror can go a long way to helping us figure out who we want to be as a writers.

What do you want? – The Shadow Question

This may seem like an easy one, but when we sit down and really ask ourselves this, it can be eye-opening. Granted, few would deny wanting to be the next King or Rowling, but are those our hard-core objectives? Maybe. Or maybe we just want to finish our first story because it’s been lingering in our minds for so many years. Having a goal, whether small or large, is a big step in furthering our identity and helps to define our expectations.

Where are you going? - The Technomage Question

I like to think of this as The Five-Year Plan question. Although similar in nature to the Shadow Question, the Technomage Question is asking us to not only examine our end-goal, but how we plan to get there. If we want to see our name in print, what are we going to do about it? It might be that we are going to follow a "traditional" publishing path of seeking an agent and printing through a major house. Or maybe we prefer the self-pub route. Maybe Indie. Having an idea of how we want to get from A to B is another critical piece of the writing puzzle. 

Why are you here? – Emperor Turhan’s Question

Of the four questions, this is likely the easiest to answer. A lot of authors will tell you they write because they have to. It’s a passion. A calling. The characters demand their story be put on paper. Others are more binary. They enjoy it, so they do it. Still others feel the need to give voice to the silent or to amplify a cause they believe in with all their soul. Whatever our reasoning, asking ourselves why we’re bothering to invest so much time and effort to write a story can sometimes give us that little boost of motivation to get through a challenging chapter or decade. 

No matter how much or how little we write, eventually someone will want to know about it. Maybe we don’t have all the answers, but with a little internal reflection, and a little help from Babylon 5, fielding those questions won’t be so hard.

So ask yourself: Who are you? What do you want?


Joshua Roots is a car enthusiast, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He's still waiting for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and Rogue Squadron. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.

His Urban Fantasy series, The Shifter Chronicles, is available wherever digital books are sold.

He's also still figuring out who he is and what he wants.

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