Am I a Writer?

Of course I am, right? I’ve written two novels and am nearly finished with a third. I have a fourth outlined and started. That’s a lot of writing. Except, I don’t like say I’m a writer.

When is your 'writer' ticket stamped?
When is your ‘writer’ ticket stamped?

The problem is that I don’t have anything published, and that’s the first question I get if someone finds out that I write novels. A big reason I don’t have anything published is that I’ve yet to have anything submitted to a publisher. I’m in the middle of revisions with my agent to get my second novel ready for that big step. Incidentally, it’s awesome to have an agent who puts in that kind of work. My first novel is in the shop, getting a major rewrite. One day it’ll be totally finished… one golden day.

In the meantime, I still have my reluctance to claim that title of writer.  Maybe part of that is that the word writer means a couple of things. Here’s what it says when I look up the definition on Webster‘s:

Writ – er  noun

: someone whose work is to write books, poems, stories, etc.

: someone who has written something

And here is the crux of it for me. I feel like calling myself a writer is a claim to the first definition and how can I claim that if I don’t get paid for it? The second definition is absolutely true, but it’s that first definition I think of.

The ironic* thing is that it’s a business already. I have a contract with a literary agency and my novels will be put up for sale. It’s rather like a start-up before that first big client. You wouldn’t call that start-up a hobby if it’s serious. That contract makes it feel serious to me, my agent is making an investment in me in time and effort, like a venture capitalist making an investment in money for a tiny software company.

So what am I? Am I a writer or not? By one definition I am, by another… maybe. ‘Course if WordPress is right and computer code is poetry, then I’m definitely a writer :).

Do you feel you can call yourself a writer?

*Some may feel this is an incorrect use of the work ‘ironic’. If so, I refer you to The Oatmeal.

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7 Responses to Am I a Writer?

  1. Johnell says:

    You’re a writer, I’d say. I’ve had to write lots of things in my career that have been publishes in journals or such, but I still don’t consider myself a writer. I suppose I should.

  2. Susan Boettcher says:

    I would say you’re a writer. FWIW, I’m trying to write something other than non-fiction these days, and I’ve written a lot of it, but I *still* don’t think of myself as a writer because everything I’ve published is non-fiction! I think of myself as a historian. Writing is part of that job but not its identity. I feel like I’ll be a writer when I’ve published something that’s not non-fictional.

  3. Mirka Breen says:

    If you write you are a writer.
    If you’re published, you’re a published writer.

    Where it gets thorny is the term AUTHOR. Some feel it is not enough to have been the author of XYZ to be called “an author.” In some circles only published writers are authors.

    As far as I’m concerned, you are anything you call yourself, like, for starters- Eric. And so much more.

  4. Lesley C says:

    I love this post, Erik. It’s something I struggle with as well. Maybe someday we can both confidently refer to ourselves as writer and feel that it actually fits.

  5. Rhonda says:

    You’re a writer, damnit. And a good one, at that! Great post. I think we all struggle this way on some level.

  6. Beth Turnage says:

    Hey, you have an agent. That’s one big deal. An agent wouldn’t put time into you if there wasn’t the potential for money.

    Once you have some successes under you, you will feel like a writer. I feel like a writer because, 1.) if I put some effort in I can paid for some of what I write. 2.) I have an audience of people who want to read what I write. I don’t know if you feel like you have an audience. But if you don’t once you get one you know you are a writer.

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