By Deb Boyken
Question: When did you start thinking of yourself as a writer?
It’s not as easy a question as it seems. Clearly, if you make all of your money by writing, it’s easy to say, “I’m a writer.” A journalist. A novelist. A pro-blogger. A freelancer. All of these people can stand up at a class reunion with a nice, crisp answer to the “What do you do?” question.
But how about all the other people who write, but not as their primary means of income? Or for no income at all? The person with an unpublished novel sitting in their desk, or a journal filled with poems jotted down in spare moments. The occasional article in a local paper. A blog that brings in a few dollars a month.
What do you think? Are the people in this second group writers?
It’s not like there is a definitive answer, after all. You can’t define a writer by saying, “If X spends Y percent of their time writing,” or “If X earns $Y by writing,” or “If X has written Y number of articles/poems/novels,” because “Writer” is an indefinite definition. A person can write all day and all night with nary a break for food or rest, but still not be published, and therefore not a “writer” in the eyes of the world. A person could throw together a short telling of some Big Event they’d been involved in–a hurricane, a disaster–and poof, they’re a writer. A celebrity teams up with a ghost-writer and poof, they’re a writer now, too. While meanwhile, back at the ranch, the poor schmuck who’s slogging away at his ground-breaking novel isn’t considered a writer because nobody has ever even glimpsed his manuscript.
My personal feeling is that, yes, if you take the time to put words on paper
in an orderly fashion, with the intent to inform, entertain, or enlighten,
then yes, you are a writer, regardless of whether any body has seen fit to
pay you for it. Sure, it can get awkward if you’re in a crowd and you answer
the famous question with, “I’m a writer,” and get the immediate follow-up.
“Oh, what have you written?” If you can only say, “Well, I have a
blog/unpublished novel,” or “I wrote an article for Smalltown Gazette last
month,” I can tell you now, it’s going to be awkward. Uncomfortable silences
But, that’s okay. It’s not how the world views you that’s important. It’s
how you see yourself. Stand up straight and tall and say, “I’m a Writer.”
And, if you wanted to plan ahead, start thinking now about a snappy comeback
for that follow-up…
Today’s guest post is from Deb Boyken. Deb is a writer who knows how to make grammar interesting. Deb Blogs at Punctuality Rules!