Last week I was asking when does writing make you a writer? When should we feel comfortable saying it out loud? What makes the difference between a pastime and an actual occupation. Is it money? Is it being published? For most of you, you didn’t actually need either, although I sense we’d all feel comfortable putting “Writer” on our passports if either one of those were the case! But it also seems that the type of writing can also come into it. People making an honest living writing for others still not feeling happy calling themselves a writer.

Thank you for the varied and thoughtful response on here and Twitter – from all sorts of people I consider to be writers. (If you missed it, you can catch up on great comments here.)

It seems there’s more comfort describing the task “I write”, than ascribing the lofty title to yourself “I’m a writer”. Perhaps this is simply cultural for some of us. The question “What do you do?” from others implies “What do you get paid for?” – at least a good deal of the time.
So the transition from “I write” to “I’m a writer” requires a few other layers of understanding to shed any embarrassment we feel at claiming its mantel.

You are a Writer because:

  1. You practice the craft.
    You invest a significant amount of time and energy in honing your skills. You want to be good at it. You need to be good at it. You buy and read books or magazines about it, follow blog posts and twitter hashtags on it. You pay deliberate attention to your style, what works and what you’d like to improve.
  2. Writing has already changed and claimed you.
    You’ve learned writing helps you understand yourself and others, emotions and events on a different plane. You couldn’t stop now if you tried because you occupy the world differently through your writing.
  3. You’ve come to terms with not making your millions.
    You don’t need to be professional in activities such as sports to be the greatest in your field so why would you need to be paid before you could craft great words? That’s right. You don’t.
  4. There’s an acceptance that this is now it!
    You are now committed to always writing something. At least for a while, maybe for the rest of your life. And
  5. You have the intention to produce something!
    Be it on-line or via electronic or printed media. From essays to flash fiction, articles, copywrite, blog posts to that far away book.
  6. You feel at home or know you would be better understood in some sort of writing community.
    Perhaps you belong to a writers group in your home town or on-line. You might participate in competitions or writing prompts. You’re thinking of a course or writing festival..
  7. Finally, You find yourself asking the question out loud or in public. “Can I call myself a Writer?”
    You’ve probably hit a critical point on your path to becoming writer. It’s as if the conscious grappling with whether it’s now okay to declare “I am a writer!” is, in itself, a rite of passage.

Post Script

When I was very ill, I used affirmations to help guide my head through mind-altering negativity to a better, more productive space. After chemo I was barely able to swim 2 lengths of a pool before getting out and going home to sleep all afternoon. I had to swim side stroke, so slow was I, that that was the only way to breathe. I had a cycle of 6 (ridiculous – if you could have seen my bald and bloated body) phrases – one on each stroke.

“I’m strong.
I’m healthy.
I’m fit.
I’m well.
And I will live
for years and years to come.”

These words still make me cry and they also fire up a kick-arse anger to all the nay-sayers – To have that intention in the face of terrible odds put me in a place of pity or madness for some. I didn’t say these words out loud to people for those reasons. Sometimes having hope that others see as unattainable, can quietly ridicule us. I had enough doubt without shouldering theirs.
But when it boiled down to it, what was important was the intention and the message to myself. How can you hope and prepare to be something that you dare not think nor say out loud?
Sometimes it’s the easy option to let what others think, or worse still, what we think they think, crush a goal or dream. The same is true of writing. If you’re doing any of the above, you are a writer – Perhaps you just need the affirmation “I am a writer!” to fully grow into the dream. It’s ok to keep it to yourself for now – but that doesn’t need to stop you believing it.

So are you a writer yet? I now know I am