Caro Clarke ▪  novelist  ▪

Writing advice: show articles ▼▲

Are you a writer? Take the quiz

Most famous writers claim that they always knew they would be a writer when they grew up. Despite set-backs and struggle, they had confidence in their own innate talent and creative instincts.

But not all writers have that rock-solid confidence (or, as it's known in the writing business, "arrogance"). How do you know if you're truly cut out for the life of a novelist or if you're actually some sad wannabe who's pitied by friends and family?

Just take the Clarke Patented "Am I Really a Writer?" multiple-choice test below and find out once and for all if you've got what it takes!


(Asking your writing group, tutor, or best friend to help you fill out this test is cheating. So is asking a writer to do it for you, such as Margaret Atwood.)

A. I think I'm a writer because:

  1. I enjoy writing
  2. I enjoy reading
  3. I enjoy typing
  4. I enjoy knowing that I am a creative being

B. I tend to get my ideas from:

  1. the world around me
  2. the daydreams within me
  3. the TV in front of me
  4. the concept of "idea" is so, you know, anal retentive

C. I try to write:

  1. one sustained period a day
  2. one sustained period whenever inspiration strikes me
  3. you mean I actually have to write something all the time?
  4. only when it won't violate my imaginative flow

D. I believe that adjectives and adverbs:

  1. should be used sparingly
  2. should be used vigorously, fulsomely, and without stint
  3. are what, exactly?
  4. are pathetic attempts to normalise my creative energy

E. I structure my novel-in-progress by:

  1. writing to a prepared plot outline or a driving story arc
  2. writing whatever comes into my head from moment to moment
  3. writing that cool idea I came across somewhere else today
  4. how mundane actually to have a "novel-in-progress"; I have a concept

F. I achieve the self-discipline to write by:

  1. forcing myself to work whether I'm in the mood or not
  2. letting guilt finally force me to do something, anything
  3. jotting down half a page now and again and rewarding myself with ice cream
  4. self-discipline is the enemy of creativity

G. I deal with difficult, blocked or 'dry' periods by:

  1. working on something else to retain good writing habits
  2. panicking and bingeing
  3. wondering if I shouldn't take up decoy carving instead
  4. only real writers are really blocked

H. I strive to make my work:

  1. as good as it can be by rewriting and polishing
  2. as good as that first true inspiration will allow it to be
  3. as unembarrassing as I can before going to my writing group – they're really mean
  4. as unintrusive in my creative life as possible

I. I approach the task of finding an agent or publisher by:

  1. researching the market thoroughly and learning how to make a professional submission
  2. sending my manuscript and a very nice letter to my writing tutor's publisher
  3. sending my manuscript to the publishers of the latest best-seller
  4. they'll be knocking on my door begging me for my manuscript

J. I accept rejection slips:

  1. with a pang, then move to the next submission
  2. with a little sigh: I secretly knew it was no good
  3. with a howl of unbelieving rage: ignorant jackasses, don't they know true talent when they see it...
  4. I'm too sensitive to put myself through such a negative experience

K. I see myself in the future:

  1. finding satisfaction in writing novels my readers enjoy
  2. becoming a rich and famous best-seller and appearing on TV
  3. winning the Pulitzer, the Booker, and the Nobel Prize for Literature
  4. being the most famous person on the planet. Hey, in the universe!

L. I want to write because:

  1. I have characters and stories bursting to come to life
  2. I like the idea of having a book published
  3. I like the idea of being a writer
  4. I didn't say I wanted to write, just that I know I'm a writer, and this is a dumb test, anyway

How to score this test:

Count up the numbers of the answers you have selected. If you have a total of:

Having taken the Clarke's Patented "Am I Really a Writer?" Test, you now know if you are a real writer or not. If you are, congratulations! If you aren't, contact me for some useful websites on needlework, photography or windsurfing.

But seriously, folks: the basic test of whether someone is a real writer or not is if they really write. There's no magic to it. Either you write or you don't. It's that simple.