Are You Really a Writer?

For the average human, writing is one of the most powerful acts available to us.

Some of our words hold the power to change the world.

Some of our words will save a life.

Some of our words will bring the sun into someone’s gray day.

Some of our words will create a chain reaction of inspiration.

No matter how you dice it, this is heavy-duty stuff. So it’s both a little surprising and rather not-so-surprising that people who write can be hesitant to claim the title of writer.

Why Do Writers Have Such a Hard Time Saying, “I’m a Writer”?

It’s much too easy for writers—no matter where we are on the writing ladder—to feel what we’re writing isn’t important enough to qualify for a full-fledged Writer Card.

When the lady at the hair salon attempts to make small talk by asking me what it is I do and I respond, “I’m a writer,” it always comes out sounding either pert or pitiful.

Blogger Diane Estrella acknowledged:

As odd as this seems, I am embarrassed by it. Not the fact that I want to be a writer. I’ve had other lofty career ambitions…. gas jockey, cider jug filler, nun…. In my mind, the bar of writing was high, much too high for me to aim for….. so I wall-flowered it in a corner….

In the October 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest, editor Jessica Strawser elaborated on this common feeling amongst writers:

There’s a lot of talk among aspiring and accomplished writers alike about what it is exactly that makes us “real” writers…. [I]s becoming a writer as simple as the act of pen in hand, or as concrete as our first byline in print, or as fully realized as the day we’re finally able to quit our day job? … [I]f you’re reading this, chances are you can call yourself a writer. But only you can give yourself permission to feel like one.

Are You a Writer—Or Not?

Are you a writer if you’ve never been published?

Are you a writer if you’re self-published?

Are you a writer if you’ve contracted with a small publishing house?

Are you a writer if only your mother and your cats see what you’ve written?

Are you a writer if you never find commercial success?

Ultimately, the answer is simple: If you write, you’re a writer.

End of story.

You don’t have to make money, you don’t have to gain a huge following, you don’t have win the Pulitzer—you don’t even have to be published. All that’s just icing on the cake. You don’t even have to write anything that’s any good (although you probably are or will, if you keep at it).

The Dichotomous Faith and Doubt of a Writer
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card

As the ever-insightful Orson Scott Card points out in How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, the writing life is always a balance, no matter how talented or successful you may or may not be:

Writers have to simultaneously believe the following two things:

  1. The story I am now working on is the greatest work of genius ever written in English.
  2. The story I am now working on is worthless drivel.

Both beliefs come with the territory. So don’t sell yourself short. Every time you set your fingers on your keyboard, every time you take a pen in hand—you are a writer.

Shout it to the world. Let them hear you roar! This is who you are and this is something worth being proud of, just as surely as it is something that challenges you to better your stories, yourself, and your world with every word you write.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Do you ever doubt whether or not you’re really a writer? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. Hm. I have never published anything, except on small internet communities, and I apparently can live without writing as it has been a month since I last wrote any fiction and I’ve gone longer than that between writing before. I don’t even know if I want to get published ever.

    Yet, as of a few weeks ago, I call myself a writer. As someone surrounded by writers who are driven in their work and claim that they can no more not write than they can not breathe, I have had to ask myself why I think I am a writer.

    My writing journey has had its ups and downs, from the time when I was eight and sure every mark of my pencil would be famous some day to when I was thirteen and determined to never write again because I had no talent for it. Now, I don’t write fiction very often (I do write other things for school). I dread looking at my NaNoWriMo manuscript again come January. My brain is not bombarded with creative ideas, and the more I learn about writing the more I realize how far I fall short.

    But writing is a part of who I am. I have trouble connecting with people who don’t understand writing. I know that characters do have command of the story when they want to and they can run away with it in ways I never intended. I have felt the thrill of seeing my research and imagination coming together into a story on my screen. I am familiar with the tiresome but fulfilling drill of sitting down every day and typing, whether I feel like it or not. And I could have no better Christmas present than I received when I saw my father weep after finishing reading my story.
    I have seen God take my story and turn it into something beyond my imagination.

    I would not be myself without that. Though writing might not be as high a priorty for me as it is for most writers, it is still a part of my identity, and the person I believe God wants me to be.

    Whoa, sorry about the long comment that doesn’t really say anything. :/ It seems your post sparked some self evaluation on my part. 🙂

  2. Anyone who can express her need to write so eloquently has every right to call herself a writer!

  3. I haven’t had the difficulty in past to call myself a writer. But it really must feel good to have also accomplished something from what you have written.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Every step of the journey brings its own blessings. But if you can shake some of the insecurities right from the start, you already ahead of the game!

  4. I’ve been questioning whether I can really call myself a writer or author because I haven’t been published yet. Needed the boost of seeing that post. Thank you

  5. Nice post, KM! Thank you.
    I’ve wrestled with this, too. For years, I’ve been inches away from getting an agent, publisher, or making actual money from self-publishing, while having lots of industry pros & readers tell me they LOVE my stories. I think I’m a writer of “cult” fiction, like Star Trek and Avengers and other cult TV series in the ’60’s, defined as “a very popular show that nobody watches.” Most people who read my stuff love it, but they aren’t most of the people who read & buy books.
    Am I a writer? Yes. Am I a marketer or seller? Not a good one yet. Working on it.
    My other struggle is the actual writing part. I love to write, but family priorities always seem to take precedence, always putting out new fires. Someday I can write a book about them all. 🙂
    I have “felt” more like a writer with each new milestone. Submitting a book proposal for the first time. Getting asked by an agent or editor to send a proposal or complete story. Completing a manuscript for self-publication, & publishing it as an ebook. Then designing a cover and seeing it come in the mail as a self-pubbed paperback, years later. Then seeing nice praise from readers who think my story is as good as I do – along with criticisms that seem to miss the point (still waiting for a truly accurate criticism that points out my real story flaws – one of them came very close!). So I know I’m a writer. Even when there are seasons that I can’t write and I’m itching for the freedom to resume. I just need enough other people to know it so I can find my tribe and start building some income from it. … And then spend MORE time writing! (:^D

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  1. […] Make this commitment and from that moment on, you are a writer. […]

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