On Calling Yourself a Writer

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When asked what I do, I  say I am a student. I don’t say I am a writer, because that seems like the equivalent of saying I am a feminist/unschooler/avid reader. Writing is a hobby. I am not paid to write, therefore I hesitate to call myself a real writer.

Amy says something similar in her post “Established Channels” and calls it “the idea of seeking a sense of legitimacy through the approval of established channels”. She mentions brushing her blog under the carpet, because it’s “just as blog.” Because no one told us we were good enough. We didn’t sign a contract or get a book deal. Few of us have a column in a big newspaper. Some of us had never shared our writing before we began writing online. We simply started a blog, hoping what we wrote would be interesting enough to attract readers.

I used to think that having an article published would officially make me “a writer”. If somebody had thought my writing was good enough to share, then that would mean I had made it. I have had an article published in an online magazine that people pay to read, but now  I tell myself I won’t truly be a writer until I have something published in print, something tangible, something in an actual magazine that people carry on to the train or pile onto their coffee tables. Maybe, once I have achieved that, I wont let myself feel like a writer until I have published a novel. Perhaps I will never be satisfied. And all this, despite the fact that I feel that my calling is to write. I have always written, and it is the only thing I see myself doing in the future.

Since writing this blog, I find it easier to just write. Write down everything and assemble it later. I no longer feel the pressure to write a good first draft. The problem is, it’s hard to avoid the feeling of needing to have your writing accepted or acknowledged by others before you can accept it yourself. It is normal yet not normal at the same time. Writers write for themselves. It’s something they need to do, every day. But what would happen if there was nobody there to read that novel you wrote? Would there still be a point to it? If there was never anybody there to read what you had created, would you  still be a writer? What makes a writer?

I think I am slowly coming to believe the idea that people are born writers. Of course, they have to put the effort in to write every day and to craft something worthwhile, but that spark of inspiration and desire to create has always been there. Perhaps whether they share their writing or not is irrelevant.

Writing isn’t my career, yet. I hope that one day I will be lucky enough to write as a full time job, be that in journalism, freelancing, blogging, or my favourite but most far-off dream, writing novels from the comfort of my own home. Until then, I’ll continue to write my blog, my articles for other online platforms, and in my own personal notebook,  and work on calling myself a writer, by my own standards.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this! What makes a writer, and when did you start calling yourself one?

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8 Comments

  1. It’s funny. The only time I call myself a writer is on my blog. To the rest of the world, I’m an aspiring writer. Unfortunately, the rest of the world also seems to feel that the only real writers are the ones with a contract.

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    1. That’s exactly my point! It makes me wonder when I will be considered as a writer and not an aspiring one. Thanks for sharing your point of view 🙂

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  2. Think you’ve really hit the nail on the head here. I think the main reason is because saying ‘I’m a writer’ is like saying ‘I am very very good at writing, I’ve made it’, and even if that’s the case the idea of saying it makes most people cringe!

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  3. You’ve started an interesting debate! I’ve read novels by popular authors, where the characters are flat, or shallow, words and phrases are repeated – and I don’t want to read more of their novels. i wouldn’t call these authors “writers”. I’ve read other novels where the use of language is superb, the research meticulous, the characters come alive, the story is gripping and I can’t wait to read their next book! Does truly being a “writer” reflect the quality of the writing, whatever its purpose – rather than publication and the number of novels or articles to your name? And can the term “writer” also relate in the same way to those who write non-fiction?

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    1. This is such an interesting point of view! I am starting to think that the term “writer” can be used to define a person who writes well, aswell as somebody who has been published before. I defintely think that non-fiction writers should be called writers, too!

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  4. I love this post. I’m always so hesistant to call myself a writer, sometimes I feel like I get “the look” as though I’ve announced that I want to be a famous pop star. People who don’t write just don’t get it! Xx

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