Friday, December 21, 2007

What Defines a Writer?

At what point can you consider yourself a writer? Are you a writer when you’re twelve and make your first entry in a journal? Is it when you’re thirty-two and your first short story is published? When your first article appears in the local paper or in a national magazine? Is it when your first book launches? When an agent offers a contract for representation? Is it when your fourth book appears? When you self-publish or only when you’re published by a big house?

I bet you know people who’ve been asked what they do … and they answer that they’re a writer. Immediately the asker responds with, “Oh, have I read any of your books?” As if novelists or book authors are the only ones qualified to call themselves writers. What about reporters, short story writers, essayists, travel writers, newspaper food critics, humorists, technical writers, greeting card writers? What about someone who’s not published at all?

And if you are asked that question and you’re not yet published, how do you respond?

When it comes to books, are you a writer until you publish, then you become an author? Do authors not write? Aren’t writers authors of their own works?

I have a friend who’s published by a small press. She’s a writer. I have another friend who has sold thousands of books published by his own small press. He’s a writer. I have a friend who has been published by a large press many times. She’s a writer. I have a friend who says she’s not a writer, yet she writes beautiful, meaningful essays. She’s a writer.

At what point do you start calling yourself a writer? And if you don’t have “credentials” yet your write, how do you answer the questions about what you do and what are the titles of your books?


  1. I enjoyed this post, thanks for it. Here's my two cents: A writer writes.

    To expand on that, a writer isn't someone who thinks about writing. A writer puts words together, and later we might add a few adjectives like "unpublished writer" or "wannabe writer" (sounding awful cynic, aren't I?).

    I guess I better get busy or they'll take the title away from me.

  2. Perhaps the title doesn't depend on others. Only you can take away the title or decide it doesn't apply to you anymore. When others think you're not a writer unless you've published in book form, then they give you the title. But in truth, writers give it to themselves.

    Then we just have to believe it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...