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Can I Call Myself a Writer Yet?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

This blog is subtitled "On Being a Writer". I prevaricated over the wording of this for a long time, trying to decide if I could justify describing myself this way. Should it say "On Becoming a Writer" for example? The Aspiring Writer?

Similarly my profile says I became "a writer" (note the cautious use of quotation marks) when I sold my first piece of work. But, again, is that right? Is a writer just anyone who writes, or do you have to have a certain level of success to be able to use the label? Something published? Something published you got paid for? A novel (or equivalent) published? Or do you have to earn a proper, family-supporting income at writing to use the term? It's a grey area. After all, most "real" writers don't manage to make a living solely with their keyboard.

Perhaps it's enough to have one or more sales to a "pro" market as defined by people like the SFWA? I've been lucky enough to have a few of those. But the truth is I still can't bring myself to mention the term "writer" when people ask me what I do with my time. Perhaps it's because I just know the next question will always be, "Oh really? What have you written?" To which I always mumble something about the short stories and poems they won't have heard of whilst secretly regretting saying anything. In my dreams they then say, "Oh, you're the Simon Kewin? I love xyz of yours ...", but that's never happened. Yet.

I'm not even sure at what point I would start describing myself as a writer. Or even, more grandly, as an author. Perhaps it's just a matter of self-belief and I should be more assertive and aspirational. I'm a writer, godammit! The truth is, so far, I can't bring myself to.

I'm fascinated to know how others feel about all this. At what point do others in the process of becoming writers describe themselves as such?


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