When is it OK to call yourself a writer?

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On #nationalwritingday I thought it might be a good time to reflect on the title of WRITER.

 

When do you allow yourself that job description and what does it really mean to you and others?

I was earning a modest living from writing a long time before I was published and yet I never called myself a writer. I was an on-line seller of murder mystery games (that I'd written), and then a creative writing teacher (teaching classes twice a week for almost five years).

One of the first questions I was often asked during that teaching time was 'Are you published?'. It felt like that was the gold standard and once I was able to say 'Yes, I am', theirs and my doubts would disappear. The irony was, when I did finally secure the longed-for agent and book deal, I was too busy to teach.

But I'm jumping ahead.

Let's go back to the start. To the day roughly ten years ago when I left a really horrible job and told them it was because I was going to write a book. It was a bit like joining a gym, or giving up wine (as if!). I'd told people, so I'd have to do it.

It would be years and a few unpublished manuscripts before I secured that book deal, and now, two books in, that feeling of needing professional validation has in-part remained with me. It feels OK to call myself a writer because I write full-time and my books are published, but in truth, I've been a writer all my life. Even as a child I wrote stories and one summer a very short book. (I was a precocious only child!)

But is there a distinction to be made?

If an author is 'a writer of a book, article, or document' then perhaps the change in perception comes when your book is published and you graduate from calling yourself a writer, to being an author? I asked some of my friends who write when/if they started calling themselves a writer...

Still feels strange now but I have been doing so for many years (long before publication) I believe if you write, you're a writer.

I know I should but in my head I won't be a 'proper' writer till I've sold my book.

Think really you should always say it as soon as you start - if you know it’s in your blood.

I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself a writer until I sold.

I say author now but I've been a 'writer' for years.

Maybe the answer to the writer thing is whatever makes you feel most motivated and comfortable.

Writing is often considered a vocation, something as essential as other needs, integral to our psyche and as such, unavoidable. On this day of writing, enjoy being a writer.

Amanda Reynolds