When is a writer a writer?

When is a writer a writer? This is not some strange riddle like ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’, it is a simple question with a very complex answer.

The answer is different for nearly everyone.

Are you a writer when you start to write something, or when you make money from it? But then again would you just call yourself an ‘out-of-work writer’ if you haven’t?

Many writers like artists find fame after they are gone. But artists still call them selves artists.

I think the problem with calling yourself a writer, whether you’re published or not, is other people’s perceptions. And when you call yourself a writer, the response can be a raised eyebrow, and a quick fire question asking if you’ve published anything.

I think the thing is, if you say you are a nurse, a teacher, a fireman, a librarian, an engineer, whatever, people usually expect you to actually work in these roles, but with writing it’s different. It’s art, and a lot of hard work. But even with jobs like these, you generally need some qualifications or experience, you cannot say you are a nurse just because you want to be, but with writing you don’t necessarily need qualifications – although you can get them (creative writing courses for instance), and this seems like an easy way out of hard work – but it’s not.

For me, I think you can call yourself a writer when two things happen; 1. You write (a no-brainer there) and 2. When you realise that writing is hard work, it takes a lot of hard work, time and graft to write something, it’s not all the glamorous life you see when characters in TV and film claiming they are writers. For me, you are a writer when you realise this, but still want to and still do, write.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours: when is a writer a writer?

writer quote

3 comments on “When is a writer a writer?

  1. I once had a literary agent who said I should still call myself a writer even though I hadn’t been published.

  2. Frankly, it’s pretty obvious… you’re a writer when you get paid to write. That’s the criteria for being a professional in any endeavor. Before that point you’re simply a wannabe.

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