How Do We Develop a Writing Identity?

I am a writer.

There was a time in my not-so-distant past when I never would have uttered those words. I didn’t believe them.  After all, I had no published work.  I was not getting paid to write. How could I call myself a writer?

Those two things are still true – I have no published work and I don’t get paid to write. Yet, I do consider myself a writer today.  Why?

I have been grappling with this question for some time now.  Not so much as it applies to me, but rather how it might apply to our students.  I see so many kids who “do” writing workshop.  They are engaged and attentive during instruction. They write every day in accordance with whatever writing unit they are currently studying.  They share during reflection time.  However, they don’t really consider themselves writers the same way they might consider themselves soccer players or ballerinas or video game players.  They don’t talk about themselves as writers.  They have no writing identity.

This is the crux of the matter: how might we help kids build a writing identity?  Where does identity come from anyway?

When I consider my own writing journey, I realize it was when I finally gave myself time and space to write what was in my heart that I began to consider myself a writer.  Specifically, it was when I started blogging and writing stories about my family and my daughters. Once I embraced my own agency as a writer, other factors began to develop as well.  I started to make time for writing.  I found a real audience for my writing.  I started to develop my own writing process.  I started to love writing.  Eventually, writing became a part of who I am.

Writing Identity

Factors Leading to the Development of a Writing Identity (Click to enlarge.)

Reflecting on my own journey makes me wonder how we could help our students develop writing identities as well.  I want our students to leave our classrooms not just with a portfolio of completed writing projects but with the steadfast belief that they are writers with a process, an audience, and a certain agency all their own.  All students, not just those with a fondness or a capacity for writing.

It is a tall order, I know, but I think maybe it all starts with having choice and the space to write what is in our hearts.


I would love to hear your thoughts about the idea of developing writing identities.  Please share in the comments below.