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.
4 thoughts on “I Write, Therefore I Am”
Satin, Nice! Yes, I surely relate. Calling myself a writer seems pretentious every time I say it and yet it is the truth. It is how I spend my days and see my future, so Yay!
Your post was exactly what I needed to read this week, so thank you!
I agree: the only thing that is required to be a writer is to write. Publication is a different thing, and book sales are yet another, but neither of those define what it is to be a writer. There is a tendency to conflate publication, or a even a particular type of publication (traditional), with the idea of “becoming” a writer. Worse, one begins to believe that sales numbers or newsletter membership or another tangential metric somehow will reach a point where the writer will arrive, and finally be real. Those things are nice, but they are not what makes a writer. A writer writes.
It’s a simple concept that is difficult to maintain in reality. Doubt, ambition, excitement, and fear make us want to find the right combination of metrics to prove to ourselves that we are REAL writers. I ricochet between the Zen of writer-in-itself and pointless panic that I’m not making it/legit/good/good enough.
As you pointed out, writing is the cure!
You know, I thought I had written a reply to your comment, and then I realized I basically just talked to you about it on Twitter. One of the things that you said really resonated with me. It was “there will always be a bigger number.” At that point success almost becomes a unicorn, doesn’t it?
I vacillate between being zen about my writing and totally freaking out. I’m starting to suspect that’s normal in the world of writers, though.