I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My A-Z of Writing Tips: Writer - who me?

I see this question a lot around the blogosphere: When can I call myself a writer?

I tend to look at this quite pragmatically:
  • I write, therefore I am a writer
  • I think I can write, therefore I am a writer
  • I know I'm a writer, therefore I don't need anybody else to tell me I'm a writer

How about you: Do you have a different approach? Are you a writer? Are you waiting to pass a particular milestone, or meet a certain goal/point on a yardstick, before you call yourself a writer? Do you refer to yourself as an "Aspiring Writer" (which implies you're trying to be, but are not yet, a writer)?


Trisha said...

Also...I write, therefore I am! ;)

Yes, I am a writer, because I write.

Laura Josephsen said...

I have no problems telling people I'm a writer. I think if you write, you're a writer, no matter what stage you're at: just starting your first ever draft or publishing your sixty-third book.

That's one of the great things about being part of a writing community, actually--everyone is in various stages and each person has a unique perspective and experience to share.

Eve said...

Interesting question..I always thought that a person could call themselves a 'writer' after they've had something published..otherwise, if you say that you're a writer people will invariably ask, "What have you written?" If I say I'm a writer they assume it's my career, not a hobby. If your answer to them is that you write a blog..it sounds to most people the same as saying you write shopping lists..It's like if I say I'm an actor, people will always say, "Oh yeah, what have you been in? Anything I'd have seen?" Of course, the answer to that is, "I don't know what you watch, so I don't know." I'm pretty sure I see where you're going though..if we don't think we're writers, then we aren't, but the reality is that when people ask what you do, they really mean, what is your job...not what do you wish you were, or what is your hobby...and, as we all know, it's very very difficult to make a living in any of the arts..not to say it can't be done,people do do it every day, but it's very difficult to break into, unless you are extremely talented, extremely lucky, or a bit of both! Most literary agents don't even look at new manuscripts, and most publishers won't look at manuscripts unless they're submitted by an agent..and of those they read, most are rejected..I don't really know about ebooks..I have a friend who just recently had her first ebook published, I don't think it's quite as arduous a process as the traditional way.. Great post Rachel..sorry this response is so long! I love these discussions though..I honestly am learning a lot since I started blogging! I would still call myself an aspiring writer..thanks for the wonderful and thought provoking post! Peace to you.

Rachael Harrie said...

Hey Eve, thanks for your comments, I love seeing where people come from when they say X, Y, or Z. For me, I distinguish between “author” – someone who has published a book, and “writer” – someone who writes (though obviously this is only my take on it, and others may approach it differently). So I would say I’m still an “aspiring author”, even while I consider myself a writer.

To throw something else into the mix, I’ve seen a few people call themselves a “pre-published author”, when they actually don’t yet have an agent or a book contract – I must say I don’t agree with using this title myself, as I’d tend to think a pre-published author is someone who is about to have their book published. Funny how a few small words can have so many different connotations/meanings!

I agree that things get much more muddled when you work full-time at something else, e.g. do you say you’re a lawyer or a writer, a teacher or a writer, etc? I guess I’d like to think we could call ourselves both, even though we might not disclose the writing part to people in our “other” career or outside our close circle. In part too, it may depend on how we look at writing ourselves – whether we consider writing our full-time career (even if we’re not yet making money from it and/or we have another job that pays the bills), or if it’s really more of a hobby.

It’s such an interesting question. I’m loving the discussion so far :)



Persian Poetess said...

Being a writer is really a label one can easily apply. The real differentiating mark is whether you consider yourself, or are considered, "a good writer." I feel it would be incredibly presumptuous of me to call myself one or even define what makes one. We constantly are trying to improve on our craft daily. If there is one thing we all are, it would be, "an eternal student."

Donna Hole said...

Sometimes I call myself an aspiring writer, but after my short story was published, I guess I passed a mile marker that told me I'm a writer.

But I also subscribed to the theory that if I write, I must be a writer. Whether or not I'm making living with it.


Shannon Lawrence said...

I consider myself a writer and aspiring author. To me, I'll be an author when I have a novel out. In the meantime, I have no issue calling myself a writer.

Good luck with the last leg of the A to Z Challenge!

Deborah Walker said...

I think it's self-defining. You wouldn't call yourelf a writer if you only wrote business reports or lists.

People do ask that question:

'You're a writer, have you published a book?"

When I say, 'No, but I've had a few stories published' it always seems second best *laughs*

Non-writers assume writer=book.

And when can you call yourself a professional writer?-- eek there's a can of worms.

Damyanti said...

Interesting question, and I guess the answer varies for each person. I had trouble calling myself a writer for quite a while, but then I started publishing, and earning a few pence for my writing, which gave me the confidence to call myself a writer.

Aimee L Salter said...

I'm with you Rach: Anyone who writes is a writer (I call myself one), but I'd only call someone published a true 'author'... though I think we all claim the title amongst ourselves at times.

Damyanti said...

Rach, thanks for googling me to visit my blog! I'm A_Zing at the link on Damyantiwrites :)

Damyanti said...

Sigh. The link is really going everywhere! Here's the correct one: http://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com. Sorry to clutter up your comments!

Grandpa said...

I'm less shy in calling myself a writer now, for I do write. I'm not a novelist or anything like that - so I do agree with the distinction between a published author and those who haven't sold any books.

Life on The Farm

Heather M. Gardner said...

I do call myself a writer but I don't say that is my profession because I don't make a living doing it. I feel that when and if I get published I will be able to call myself an author. Probably my personal hang-up.

Carol Riggs said...

I think anyone who writes--no matter what the volume or time spent--should call themselves a writer! I agree that "author" sounds like someone published. I don't care for the terms "prepublished" or "aspiring." They sound too uncertain or tentative. Just say you're a writer!!

Jules said...

I'm a therapeutic writer. I write to make myself feel better :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Eve said...

Hi again! Thanks so much for the feedback Rach! This is such a great discussion.. You know,I think that 'author' does sound like someone who has more than one piece published. 'Author' has weight behind it..to me it assumes that someone makes a living writing, you're right about that.. probably people who aren't published shouldn't call themselves authors. I don't really like 'pre-published author' either..sounds cumbersome and kind of false..It's true I suppose, we are all writers, but there's only a few of us here who are authors...I guess my problem is that, like Persian Poetess says, it's a label one can easily apply...anyone...I've read horrible horrible pieces by people who claim to be 'writers'...and at the same time I've read brilliant pieces by people who don't call themselves anything...I love what Oscar Wilde said, "Books are well written or badly written, that is all."...anything in the arts is hard to actually, for real, get in to, and it's also one of the few fields that someone can just say they're in, because they feel like they're in it..but, that being said, I'm all for following dreams and keeping on writing...I know that some of us have to write, to not do it would be the same as trying to hold our breath all day,whether or not we're good at it is another thing...I guess it's just that if someone identifies themselves, to me, as a writer..then I suppose I will assume they're an author. In the end I suppose the thing is to just keep on keeping on! Everyone has valid points and here's to pounding away on the keyboard, no matter what you call yourself! I'm a deli clerk who likes to write down stories and thoughts from time to time..Cheers everyone!

Zan Marie said...

I'm a writer because I write. But others seem to believe I'm a writer because I do have two books published. Doesn't matter to me. If you put words together on paper, in a blog or mansucript to communicate with others, you *are* as writer. Just my two cents. ; )

Suze said...

I've always been a writer, even before I learned to form a character with a fat pencil.

Reminds me of a scene in the film 'Grosse Pointe Blank' in which John Cusack's character, a hit man, loads his gun and says, 'This is me breathing.'

I string words together every day of my life and put them out there. This is me breathing.

A blessing and the highest salute to my colleagues. Thanks for a great question, Rach.

Patricia Lynne said...

I like those three options. They are very empowering.

Clara Gillow Clark said...

All of the above!

Ann said...

I have moved from coughing as I uttered writer to covering my mouth behind my hand as I make the proclamation. And yet I write so therefore I am. Wish the little voice in my head would stop sniggering.

Deana said...

Hmm, I would say I am a writer aspiring to be an author.

Reece said...

Holy Long-List-of-Comments! Nice going, Rach! You seem to have hit the jack pot!

As for myself, I've been calling myself a writer ever since I decided I was going to write a book. Go fig.

Kay L. Davies said...

I started writing when I was 5 or 6. I was identified as a writer by my teachers, later by my college profs, all of whom who were always waiting for The Great Canadian Novel. I tried, but it never happened.
By the time I accepted my writing style: humorous essayist, it was too late for me to be Dave Barry.
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

San said...

Whew, I'm a writer. YOU said so ;)


I write, therefore I am a writer.

Cheers to all of us who get to do this thing we love :)

Michael Offutt said...


Cally Jackson said...

Great discussion you've got going here, Rach. I agree with your distinction between writer and author but have another question to throw into the mix - do those who self publish their work count as authors? Does the title change happen instantaneously or does it depend on their commercial success? :-)

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

I liked your one comment about working full-time and writing on the side.

Let's see, with all the job experience I've had in the past, I would call myself a "babysitter, clothes & video store clerk, caterer's lackey, grocery cashier, teacher's aide, substitute teacher, daycare director, actor/director, secretary - gone IT, writer"

Well, that's clear as mud! How about...I'm a very "experienced" writer. Good one, huh!

The Write Soil

Julie Musil said...

It took me a while before I came out of the closet as a writer. At least to my family and friends. I thought saying it meant I had to have a book deal before I was really a writer. I think if you sit down and write something, and finish it, you're a writer!

Nofretiri said...

I'd once called myself a Writing-College-student, which is rather fitting according to my self assessment of my writing skills. My whole explanation can be read in My Writing Journey

Have fun! :-)

Karin @ Nofretiris Dream Of Writing

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I'm like you. I'm a writer because I write. With all the time and energy I put into it, I feel the title is deserved! I don't think I'll consider myself an author though until I've been published.

Garry G. said...

Well firstly I wasn’t comfortable calling myself a writer simply because I write. I said, ‘I will be a writer when I get paid for something to be published.’ Then I did… twice in a month!

But I still wasn’t comfortable calling myself a writer, because they were only on-line. I said I’ll call myself a writer when I get something accepted to ‘real’ paper print… then I did, in a short-stories compilation book, but the book deal folded before it was printed, and I got the writes returned. I got to keep the payment though. So anyway, that obviously doesn’t count, and it was only a short anyway!

So I decided to put some stuff up for free on a e-pub site, oh 1,468 downloads and one favourite, obviously doesn’t make me a writer or anything as I put them up myself, just vanity really, but it made me try putting something up on another site with a small fee.
Maybe if I get paid actual money for this I could be a real writer. Oh look someone bought it!

Still don’t feel like a writer though… maybe if that novel I’m working on comes out in hardback… ;)

Julie Hedlund said...

I force myself to say it out loud whenever anybody asks me what I do or if I work. I'm even getting better at responding to the, "oh what have you published?" question.

Adina West said...

Weighing in late on this one...

It's a very important question I think, and how we answer it says alot about how we feel about this journey we're on. For me, just saying 'I want to write' (seriously, rather than just as a hobby) was a very important moment for me, and completely changed the way I approached what I did.

I think there is something important and very valuable about verbalising our aspirations, and having the courage of our convictions.

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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