Do You Call Yourself a Writer? 10

WHEN PEOPLE ASK YOU WHAT YOU DO, do you reply that you are a writer? Chances are, if you have not yet published a book, you don’t — even though you may have had articles and essays published in online magazines or anthologies. (You don’t count those small victories because you didn’t receive any money.) Chances are, you hesitate to call yourself a writer even though you spend hours every week scribbling down and revising your ideas, submitting your work, and have been working on your memoir or novel for the last five years.

You hesitate because you know the first question out of their mouths is, “Oh, what books have you written?” And you don’t want to have to explain. And, besides, you’re not sure that you can claim the title of writer if you don’t actually make a living writing.

So the question is: What makes a person a “writer”? Doctors and accountants and massage therapists have certifications and documented work experience. Until published, a writer may have only the time spent privately toiling away at her computer to certify her chosen field. How does she then justify the title?

I have heard from many writers who wrestle with this question. I have asked it of myself. After I published my memoir, Not the Mother I Remember, I went through a “desert” period, where I felt so drained I was unable to write. Was I still a writer? Then, a year or so ago, I went through a family crisis that required all my emotional and mental resources. During that period of time, I found myself unable to write. Was I still a writer?

The answer for me, and for you too, is yes. If you write down things you notice in the world, if you feel joy when you manage to string words together that resonate, if you imagine and write down events in such detail they come to life, if you translate daily events into poetry and stories in your mind, if you write because you NEED to write to feel whole, you are a writer.

You may be an unproductive or blocked writer. You may be an unsuccessful writer. You may be a developing writer (aren’t we all?). But, if you regularly sit down to write — even when nothing worthwhile comes to you — you’re a writer.

[bctt tweet=”If you write because you NEED to write to feel whole, you’re a writer.” username=”writingthrulife”]

So look yourself in the mirror and say it aloud: “I’m a writer.” Say it loud, say it proud, until you begin to believe it. The more real it is for you, the more you will encourage (and discipline) yourself to sit down and write.

And next time someone asks you what you do, try it out. “I’m a writer.” If you have a day job, you can add writer to the title. “I’m a teacher and writer.” Or, “I’m an accountant by day and writer by night.” And when they ask what you’ve written, tell them about your work in progress. Laugh and tell them how many rejection letters you’ve received so far, and launch into the stories of rejections received by now-famous authors, such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. Ignore the naysayers.

The sooner you start calling yourself a writer, privately and publicly, the more you will take yourself and your writing life seriously. And so will everyone else.

I’d like to hear from you. Do you or have you struggled with calling yourself a Writer?


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10 thoughts on “Do You Call Yourself a Writer?

  • sara etgen-baker

    Initially, yes, I had trouble calling myself a writer. I was 60 years old and had just retired from a 30-year teaching career. I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager. So I found myself sitting in front of my laptop asking, “Okay, now what?” Pretty soon, though, I began putting words to paper and within a few short months I claimed my new identity. I, too, have had those dry spells and periods of doubt about my writing ability. Writing makes even the strongest of us feel so vulnerable and sometimes incapable of grasping the human experience and expressing that experience in words.

  • Linda Sievers

    You nailed this one for me, Amber. Thanks for posting it. Whether we’ve done online publishing, or have published in magazines or anthologies, and might also be writing a memoir or book, we are writers. We are involved in the creative process. This process may one day bear the fruit of paid publication, or not. But in my experience of the creative process, dedication to that process and what it generates within one’s soul is the fruit. Every word is a seed of imagination and conviction. Write.
    Thanks, Amber

  • Patsy Ann Taylor

    To answer your question, yes, I have struggled to call myself a writer. But that was in the past. Now that I have published two books, I feel the title of writer/author fits.
    But when it comes to discussing my work, I don’t usually do that unless it’s with my critique group or other working writers. It is exhausting to try explaining what I’m doing to those who have no experience with the art of writing. And I think it weakens my work in progress to share it too soon.

  • Maya Lazarus

    It has taken me a long time to think of myself as a writer and poet. When I put “writer and poet” on my business cards, I felt I had arrived. Many times when I hand out a card to someone, for whatever purpose, they say, “Oh, I should put that, too, but I don’t have the courage.”

  • Diane Warner

    You are also a cheerleader and guide to people like me who need your encouragement and constant reminding to enjoy writing. Yes, I am a writer. I love looking at what I have to say, to take notes on what I’m reading and to be mentioned in the acknowledgments of friends who publish. Maybe it is time for me to claim what I do for a living. I write.