I recently gave an interview to the Crossville Chronicle where I was asked the familiar question, “What do you recommend to people starting out writing?”. Here’s the answer I should have given.

“Discover if you should be writing.”

If writing a single book, short story, blog post, poem, doesn’t change you as a person forever, walk away. As I sit here and type this out, I feel the flow of emotion run through my arms and into my keyboard as a needed release of energy. When I write poetry, when I blog about my day, when I type out a paragraph in a story, when I release a story trapped in my head, I am free.

Have you ever watched a true artist perform? A singer sing, especially in the studio/while writing the song? Their eyes close, their body gyrates and jerks. Emotions contort their skeletons in obscure ways. This is how I write. I smile, I laugh, I cry, I cringe. Words leave my fingertips and enter the keys of my keyboard, in the same way music flows from a pianists hands. Creativity is a living being, jailed within an artist’s body, and if we don’t find a way to release it, it will kill us from within.

If you are not experiencing these things. If you are not waking up with story ideas. If you are not driving down the road, obsessing about a plot unfolding. If you are not allowing a burning beast to travel from your soul to a piece of paper, you are not a writer.

No, I’m not saying you’re not an artist. I’m not saying you’re not creative. Maybe you need to be a musician, a vocalist, a painter, a sculptor. Maybe you will be a leader in medical science. But please, stop writing. It’s a waste of your time. Instead of discovering what you should be doing, you’re chasing a prey you will never catch.

So, how do you start writing? Ask yourself, should you be writing.