I am a writer. Why is that so hard to admit?
It should be safe to say I am a writer. After all, I spend a lot of time writing. I write corporate communication pieces; I write a blog; I have written magazine and newspaper articles; I even wrote a novel.
So why do I hesitate to say I am a writer? It’s certainly not embarrassment about writing or a disrespect for the craft; I have a deep admiration for writers. In fact, that may be part of the problem. It feels presumptuous to put myself in the same category as respected writers. So as soon as I say, “I am a writer,” a voice pops into my head, “well, not a real writer.”
If anyone else said that, I would respond, “If you write, you are a writer.” Somehow I’ve developed a different standard for myself—a standard that until now I had never fully defined. So I took a quiet moment recently and asked myself, “What would it take for me to feel like a real writer?” I was a bit surprised at the narrow definition. As it applies to myself, I equate being a writer with being paid to publish. While I have been paid for writing, and I have been published, I have never been paid to publish.
How sad is that? I’ve left myself only one way to success and it happens to be something outside of my direct control. And this arbitrary paid-publishing requirement—it only applies to me. In my world, other bloggers are real writers. Self-published authors are real writers. Just about anyone who puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is a real writer. Except for me.
The good news? Since I created the rules—and evidently am the only player in my crazy game—I can change the rules. I can redefine what it means to me to be a writer. To help with that task, I went looking for inspiration. Turns out I’m not the only one asking, “What does it mean to be a writer?” Here are just a few of the answers I found, and guess what, none of them talk about payment or publishing.
Mallory England: Anyone can write, and many who hate writing are forced to attempt it in Freshman Composition courses. However, just writing doesn’t make someone a writer. Like with anything in life, if you want to be a bona fide writer, you have to love it. It has to be where your thoughts wander when you’re alone. It has to be the thing you use for comfort and, sometimes, a mode of escape.
Joel Ricki: It means having a story to tell and a need to tell it. Really, that’s all there is. So, if you think you’re a writer, you probably are.
Duy Truong: To be a writer means I want to invite you to step into my world: chaotic, imperfect, dazzling. Full of pain, love, determination.
Michael Barnard: I’m a writer as part of my identity, not just someone who does the activity of writing. It’s integral. I do it like I breathe or eat. I apparently can’t not do it, regardless of whether I’m rewarded for it or not. Acknowledging that I was a writer as part of my identity was like getting married. It was just acknowledging a pre-existing state formally to other people. And probably most of them were thinking to themselves, “Well, duh. Took him long enough.”
Do you consider yourself a writer? I’d love to hear what being a writer means to you.
So What, Now What?