Writers are known to be introspective, often overthinking, mulling existential issues ad nauseum. But periodically, there is value to posing questions to remind the writer who she is and what she does. Here are five questions I think writers should ask themselves.

  1. WHO

When I first started writing, I was afraid to call myself a writer. I figured if I called myself a writer, I would have to reach some measure of success, which terrified me. It was much safer to consider writing a pastime, a hobby, something I dabbled in. Then one day, a dear writing friend called me on it. “Michele, you are a writer. Writing isn’t your hobby. Stop pretending it isn’t who you are.”

Since that day, I haven’t hesitated to call myself a writer. I no longer felt like an imposter. I was in, regardless of whether I was ever published or even finished writing a novel. I am a writer. Every morning, it’s the first thing I write at the top of my “to do” list. Say it out loud. Tell yourself in the mirror when you brush your teeth.


What should I write? Here’s an easy answer. Anything you want. Write fiction, write nonfiction. Write poetry or fantasy or mystery. You can write whatever calls you. It doesn’t matter what’s selling. Write from the heart where words don’t care about money. Some writers panic with the freedom to choose what they write. But think about the books you remember best. Many of them were written by writers who dared to be different and wrote the story that spoke to them. Embrace the freedom.

3. HOW

Forget the “you must” or “you should” advice. “Always do this.” Never do that.” You can never have more than four, no six, points of view. Tell that to Donal Ryan, acclaimed Irish writer who wrote The Spinning Heart, a story about a community in Ireland during a recession. He had twenty-one points of view, got amazing reviews, and made me laugh at the “experts” who like to set a mathematical limit on creativity.

Write how it works for you. Outline, if you like. Don’t and let the words flow organically while the story emerges. Use an app, like Scrivener, where you write onto boxes that organize every element of your writing. Try doing it different ways. See what works. I tried Scrivener and felt like I was flailing in a cardboard box trying to get out so I could tell my story. Some of my writing buddies thrive on Scrivener.  It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you write.


 Are you like me? Awake at dawn (or before), energetic, upbeat, enthusiastic, and cheerful. I’m a lifelong morning person, much to the dismay and even disgust of family members who have had to suffer through my jovial optimism before noon. Come four o’clock, I am spent. I want to sit quietly and read until dinner and then slip into bed.

I cannot fathom deciding to sit at my desk at 10:00 pm with a mug of coffee or tea and begin writing. But many very talented writers do just that.

So, when should you write? Must you join the 5:00 am online writing group to be productive and successful? Absolutely not. Write when it works for you, not when others say you should write. If your brain is bulging with brilliant ideas at midnight, go for it. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary.

5. WHY

When you get the inevitable writing blues, it may be time to think or journal about why you write. What do you get out of it? There will be more than one answer for most, from profound to mundane. I like to think about all the pleasure writers have given me since I learned to read and hope I am returning that gift to others. I also like to travel to an occasional conference in a place I’ve never been before and drink martinis while commiserating with other writers.

For many of us, the answer to why we write is that we must. There are stories inside of us we must share for our own survival.

What other questions do you think writers should ask themselves?

C. Michele Dorsey is the author of Oh Danny Girl and the Sabrina Salter series, including No Virgin Island, Permanent Sunset, Tropical Depression, and Salt Water Wounds. Her latest novel, Gone But Not Forgotten published by Severn House will be released in paperback on May 28th. Michele is a lawyer, mediator, former adjunct law professor and nurse, who didn’t know she could be a writer when she grew up. Now that she does, Michele writes constantly, whether on St John, outer Cape Cod, or anywhere within a mile of the ocean.  


  1. Yes! this is such kind advice. I write late at night, often not even starting until 10 pm. I can’t EVER write before 2pm. Ever. Not even to save my life. My mind just doesn’t settle into storytelling mode until later in the day. I do love Scrivener, but when in a bind, I write longhand. I write the dark stuff, so that naturally translates into crime and maybe horror. When I tried to write a lighter, happier story, I wanted to rip my eyeballs out. The best I can do is go heartfelt, but I can’t at all do positive or upbeat. Probably due to my nihilistic Russian nature :-).

    As for why… I really appreciate your reasons. Sometimes the hardest thing is to allow yourself to do something for no reason at all other than that it’s fun.

  2. One of the joys of teaching an Intro to Fiction class is that I am dealing with people who are completely new to the field. They’re not worrying about publication or genre or even making sense, sometimes. They just want to learn how to tell their stories. It’s a constant reminder to me of the joy of storytelling.

  3. How I loved this! It pinpoints our thinking we need superior validation of some sort to be “allowed” to be writers. I will NEVER forget the time that my husband, after I had just finished the very first draft of my mystery and we were discussing what came next and he said “…but you’re a writer, so you will know…” It stopped me in my tracks, and even now I’m getting that pre-crying nose burn. LOL! I don’t know if he will ever truly know what that meant to me. In terms of practical stuff, I’m an afternoon writer, and nighttime-in bed- editor. Morning…don’t even talk to me before at least 3 mugs of tea, then come the chores. After lunch, I can sit down, the house is quiet and off I go. Around 3-4 o’clock it’s dinner prep, feeding animals, dinner, an hour of British tv, then off to curl up in bed with that days work and go through it with a loose-toothed comb for basic errors. Oh…and my cat who wants to help edit.”Scoop! Don’t touch the keyboard!!”

  4. Eliminating “should” was the hardest thing for me to learn.
    These are all great points and should be required reading for anyone considering being a writer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *