What makes someone a writer?
Is it securing an agent, a publishing deal, or being able to walk into any branch of Waterstones and point out your work on the shelves?
Is it simply the act of sitting down and putting words on a page, whether by hand or keyboard?
Ask anyone with an interest in books, writing or publishing and they will probably have a different opinion.
For years I didn’t feel that I could call myself a writer without having the affirmation of a published novel under my belt. I would go to workshops and publishing days and listen to other attendees enthusiastically describe themselves as writers, because that’s who they wanted to be. I would often wish I had their self-assurance.
I always had to temper my own description with the word ‘aspiring’. I’m an aspiring writer.
As the years went by and I wrote more and more – often for work, and then for my blog – I began to feel more comfortable defining myself as a writer. I became known for my writing skills, without me having to force my desire for publication on other people all the time.
And then I read an interesting quote somewhere from a writer who believed that people who use the word ‘aspiring’ are doing themselves down. If she saw it in a Twitter bio, she would deem that person unworthy of a follow.
I’m confident enough now to call myself a writer, because it’s a part of my identity and it’s something I practice (almost) every day. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m a writer in the same way that Charles Dickens or Zadie Smith or J.K. Rowling is a writer.
Not everyone who writes does it for the same reason. A publishing deal isn’t the ultimate goal for everyone, amazing though it would be to have one. For some people, it’s enough to write for self-expression; few people have to read that work.
Now that self-publishing has become such a phenomenon, there exists a whole other level of people who write. Where do they fall on the scale? Are they equal to those with novels published by traditional means, or not? Do they come somewhere above those who so far have only scratched out the guts of a story in a notebook or on their laptop?
Do we really need to define against ourselves against all those other people, who probably love writing as much as we do?
Being a writer is something that you have to work on constantly, but it’s also a part of who you are. Chances are, if you don’t have that burning desire to craft stories and line the page with your words, then you’ll never become a writer, of any kind.
So what do you think; are there prerequisites for calling yourself a writer? Does it even matter?