Debating “what makes a writer?” and “who is allowed to call themselves a writer?” used to take up a fair bit of my time. I loved to write, had been writing for years and daydreamed of publication. But I didn’t feel like a writer. The vocation felt distant, far away. Today, things are a lot simpler.
Now, I do consider myself a writer. And as silly as this might sound, I believe this transition from “oh I dunno if I’m a writer, I enjoy it but idk, I’m not great” to a simple “yeah, I’m a writer” is a key step in anyone’s writing career.
There are various reasons why aspiring writers can feel reluctant to call themselves writers, from self-doubt and perfectionism to other people’s prejudices and opinions. But these barriers must be overcome, because this reluctance to be labelled a writer often goes hand in hand with a hesitation to devote time and energy to the writing itself. This was definitely the case for me.
I can’t pinpoint the moment I realised I was a writer, because it doesn’t usually happen just like that. But if I had to highlight a moment, I’d say it was the moment I first called myself a writer without hesitation. Or when I stopped downplaying my chosen vocation when someone asked about my career plans. Or when dropping “writer” into my blog bio felt natural, obvious.
Somewhere along the line I’d stopped fantasising about becoming a writer and instead started working to make it a reality. Now, I write like crazy, study the craft of writing as much as possible and strive (at a slug’s pace) towards publication.
- Time spent worrying about whether you’re a writer is time which could be spent, well, writing.
- You will never be awarded an “official legit writer” sticker.
- No one can validate you as a writer but yourself.
Of course, I appreciate that life gets in the way, and some people struggle with various issues that make creative endeavours more challenging. And these factors, that may prevent you from writing as much as you would like to, do not invalidate you as a writer either.
So, let’s stop worrying whether or not we are writers and start getting the words down. If you need an extra kick up the bum, I would recommend getting hold of a few books on the creative process. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is an empowering and joyful read and The Creative Writing Coursebook, edited by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs, is full of bite-size prompts and tips to motivate you.
To avoid coming up with my own inspiring sign off, I’ll leave you with the words of William Faulkner, “Don’t be a ‘writer.’ Be writing.”