Sunday, March 27, 2011

Do You Call Yourself A Writer?

What constitutes being able to call oneself a writer? Everyone seems to have a different opinion of this. Some say you have to be published in order to consider yourself a writer. Some say you have to have published a book in order to call yourself a writer. Others say you only need to be currently writing, whether published or not, in order to call yourself a writer.

The Merriam-Webster Free Dictionary defines a writer as "one who writes." Many of us write. Some of us are good at writing, and some of us only write rubbish that few would be willing to read. But according to this dictionary definition, both types are writers. One only needs to write in order to be a writer.

Wikipedia states that "A writer is a person who produces literary content, including but not limited to stories, poetry, music and other literary art, advertising, procedures, and books." It goes on to say that "The word is almost synonymous with author." This would suggest that a writer is someone who is published, whose writing is read by others.

What about bloggers? Our writing is published on the Internet. We don't get paid for our writing (unless we are writing a review for pay), so does that negate the fact that we are writers? Do we need to be paid for our writing in order to qualify officially as writers?

Personally, I believe that, while not everyone who writes is a writer, you don't have to be published to be a writer either. Some people write with no intention of ever having their writing read by others. Some people write without ever paying any attention to their prose, ignoring the need for their writing to have any sort of quality whatsoever. Those are not writers. They are dabblers. Just as artists sometimes doodle, writers sometimes dabble in mindless writing. But a person who only writes mindlessly and never writes with thought to content is not a writer. (We should have a word for this mindless writing, just as artists have the word doodle for mindless drawing. Any suggestions?)

Some people strive to write something that will appeal to others. They pay attention to their content and to their form, and they work hard at creating something worthwhile through their writing. Regardless of whether or not these efforts ever get published, these people deserve to be called writers, because writing means something to them.

And maybe that should be the distinguishing concept on whether or not someone can call themselves a writer or not; what they write has to mean something to them. Anyone who puts something down in writing in order to express something, to share something or to create something is a writer.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I don't call myself a writer. I DO, however, tell people I write. I like to write... I love to write. I love your idea of being able to put something down on paper that YOU like -- that's very important.

Victoria said...

I used to tell people that I wrote, but not that I'm a writer. I thought it would be presumptuous to call myself a writer, unpublished as I am.

That's changed now. Writing is my life- I think about it all the time, its my favourite topic of conversation (driving my husband slightly up the wall...). I eat up all genres of book and film now to find food for inspiration, and I naturally critique the writing of anything I come across, forcing myself to consider what I'm passionate about and why.

I can only hope that one day through hard work, I will become an author, which is my life's dream. But I am definitely a writer.

Awesome post, I really liked it.

Zencherry said...

As for writing dabblers: Scribblers? Scrawlers?

I think everyone who writes to purge themselves of the demons, (I mean muses - lol), is a writer. Anyone who then edits, rewrites, and bites fingernails over fit and tries to publish a complete work...these are authors. My opinion though. ;)

Great post. :D

Cathy said...

I do say that I am a writer. It's the most accurate description of what I do. I'm a commercial copywriter who used to be a journalist and am trying to write fiction. I have always earned my living with my keyboard, ever since as a student I could earn more from newspapers than I could waitressing. I don't call myself a novelist as I haven't published one. Yet. Cathy x

Barbara said...

I call myself a writer. I make the majority of my income from writing - but I called myself a writer long before that ever happened. I have always been a writer - even at 5 when I wrote my first short story. :)

Anonymous said...

It took me a long time to learn to call myself a writer. For me the fear of owning 'writer' as a job description was because it felt like I was voicing my dreams. You know how you should always keep wishes to yourself, or they won't come true. Because being a writer had always been my wish, I think I was terrified to use the word out loud :-)

I used to say "I'm a teacher." Then people would ask me where I worked and I'd have to explain that I was no longer teaching full-time but writing. Then they'd ask what I wrote. In the end it's easier to take a deep breath, steel yourself and say "I'm a writer".