I’ve read a couple of articles this past week that got me to thinking about the title “Writer.” One of them is by a newly met friend named Elizabeth Rose who wrote a great post called, “I am a Writer…” She talks about being uncomfortable when being asked to introduce herself and never quite knowing what to say.
The other post is from a blog I discovered a bit ago written by Kristen Lamb. Her post, “What makes a “real” Writer?” discusses her frustrations not only with how writers perceive themselves, but how society at large may not take the profession of writing seriously.
I think a lot of people who are working to publish their first work struggle to think of themselves as a legitimate author. They say they are an “aspiring” author. Always feeling the need to include the—slightly apologetic—caveat before claiming the title for themselves.
Even after publishing that first book, I’ve found many authors still struggle with whether they’re an actual writer. They’ve only published one book. They haven’t sold that many, yet. They still have their day job and are writing at night and on weekends, or in the fifteen minutes they can squeeze throughout the day waiting in lines for their coffee, their lunch, or at the DMV.
To be honest, I can relate. There have been many mornings throughout this past year where I’ve woken up, caught my reflection in the mirror while I was brushing my teeth and thought, “What the hell am I doing?!”
Even while I was putting this website together, I struggled with what to put under my name. Should I say “Writer?” “Author?” “Novelist?” Does “novelist” sound too pretentious? What exactly have I done to earn such a title, anyway?
At what point can we define ourselves as a writer? At what point are we legitimate enough? Is it when we have a book on the bestseller lists? Or, maybe when we’ve won some kind of prize. Do we have to have a book that’s been traditionally published? Perhaps it’s when we’ve made a certain amount of money and can finally quit our day job.
Sure, all of those can be indications of success and help to provide a sense of validation. But, ultimately, I think you’re a legitimate writer when you WRITE! Everything else is icing on the cake. None of it occurs until the time and effort is spent on the work.
Of course, even as I type this, I realize I have a ways to go on my journey. I hear all the little caveats whispering in my head. They say, “It’s not as if you’re writing a great literary piece. You’re writing a beach read. Those are a dime a dozen.” “What do you have to say that hasn’t already been said before?” “Maybe if you had chosen a more dignified genre…but you’re only writing romantic suspense. That’s little more than a penny dreadful.” “You haven’t even published, yet. Just wait until people actually read what you’ve written. Then what will you do?”
Aaaahh! It can be maddening!
But, I’ve discovered I have a secret weapon. Over the course of this year, there is one sure way to kill the doubt demons in my head. Whether it’s before noon, or late at night, or 3AM and they’ve woken me up from my dreams, the one thing I can do is to sit down at my keyboard and write.
And THAT makes me a writer.