When can you call yourself a writer?
With that debate still unsolved, I continue to wonder if I can call myself so. After all, I am now a former Incident Coordinator, a former library assistant and therefore a former ‘employed being’ altogether. And that sounds rather bad for one’s ego when pondered upon too long.
Asked by people what on earth I now fill my days with when I’m forced to dedicate most of my days to rest and sleep, I simply tell them “I write.”
Instantly eyebrows raise higher than one’s crown chakra and a slight shaking of the head indicates the dismay – envy perhaps? – and inner thoughts that spell “this girl has lost it for good.”
Tiring to see their reaction? Yes.
A wee bit fulfilling? Most definitely.
This isn’t a fanciful new hobby, however. This has been years in the making. If not decades. Considering I spent half my life either reading in a library or working in a library, the secret writer in me should have emerged sooner. Much sooner.
But it didn’t. Too busy being ill and all that, you see.
(Question… do all readers want to pen books themselves?)
No, writing is something that grows on you. I didn’t wake up one day and say “hey, you know what, I became a writer overnight so let’s go publish some books!”
June 2011 was the month I started blogging. Slowly finding words to match my inner state, my resolve not to let multiple sclerosis dominate my life anymore on a physical level. Baby steps turned into those of a toddler chasing a ball, a teenager running to her first boyfriend.
With some success, I found the basis of what I wanted my writing to be. A source of information for people with MS, an advocating tool for people with disabilities and a hangout for people who like books, photography and Ireland.
Spurred on by being nominated and then shortlisted for the Ireland Blog Awards 2013 in the best personal blog category, and on that premise, I started reading all about writing online. Nobody’s perfect and I am fully aware there are things I can improve on grammatically. English is my 3rd, or 4th language after Flemish, Dutch and French, so I want to ensure that what goes on my blog, is sound enough.
With all this going on, the question of when one becomes a writer was put to me two days ago, and if you can (want to) call yourself as such without sounding arrogant or self-righteous. I’m not one to run away from existentialist questions, so my thinking machine was put to work.
Does it sound ostentatious when you call yourself a writer when you have no published work yet (your blog not included)? After all, you only call a person ‘doctor’ when he/she received their degree, otherwise, we could call butchers, surgeons.
Are you saying you’re a writer to make yourself stand out, or because you want to be famous? If or when I call myself so, will I be any good?
In decades of roaming around in libraries, I’ve handled more books than you can imagine.
Really bad books.
Books that should never have been allowed to enter the front door.
And then some.
Existentialist questions not answered on my own, I went online and I found several blogs by people who asked themselves those very questions.
For example, Chuck Sambuchino on writersdigest.com says “it’s not the published book that makes you a writer. You’re a writer because of the things you notice in the world, and the joy you feel stringing the right words together, so they sound like music.
You’re a writer because you can imagine something in such detail that it comes to life. You’re a writer because you’re obsessed with making your ideas clearer, tighter, fiercer. You’re a writer because you have every reason to stop (it takes too much time, pays too little, and the rejection hurts too terribly), but you can’t do it. It’s not that you love to write so much as you need to write.”
Right now, I’m at the stage where I need, want and love writing so much. It’s on my mind most of the day, and when I just finished writing, it’s back on my mind 5min after pressing the ‘Publish’ button.
Michelle D. Argyle, on the other hand, says “If you make a conscious effort to sit your butt in a chair/sofa/bed/floor and write on a consistent basis, you are a writer. If you are consistently producing material, whether you are publishing it or not, you are a writer. If you’re taking a break from writing and you have plans for when you will begin again, you are a writer. If you don’t have any honest plans to write again …
I’m afraid you are on a break from being a writer, as well. If you’ve completed writing projects in the past, or published projects in the past, and you are no longer writing, then you are only an author, not an author and a writer. I think there’s a big difference there.”
The difference between an author and a writer is a whimsical one at best. Legal terms and personal and emotional feelings aside, an author is the originator of an idea for a book, or of certain content. A writer is someone who pens the book, article or blog post himself, and often the author and writer are the same people. And while a writer will always be an author, an author only becomes an author once his work is published.
A while ago I signed up for newsletters on Jeff Goins from Coppyblogger. Wanting to find out more on how to get more traffic to my blog, I was inspired by the positivity of Jeff and the fantastic lists of how to improve your writing.
In this page, Goins talks about what real writers do that the rest of us don’t, and the answer struck like lightning: “They believe in themselves. They write confidently and courageously, without making excuses or apologies. And if you’re going to do work that’s worth anything, you’re going to have to do the same. Even if at first you have to fake it. You’re going to have to call yourself a writer.”
On when a writer becomes a writer, Goins explains the answer author Steven Pressfield gave him during an interview: “You are when you say you are. Screw what everyone else says.”
Upon reading this, that was it. Ping! A light – more like fireworks or the beam of a sea light tower – smashed into my head. Ta-dah! I am a writer.
Suddenly a sense of relief filled my head as if I woke up to my own reality just now. Aspiring? Hopeful? Wannabe? Silly cow? Haughty princess? Stuck up, nerd?
Ha… I am my own boss.
I am a writer!
The last thing Jeff Goins added to this wonderful article on Copyblogger is this: “So what are you waiting for? Time to call yourself a writer — and actually believe it.”
I am a writer, and I believe it!
While I am here singing Jeff’s praise, do sign up for his work and read his eBook Wrecked for the Ordinary. Delightful reading, and something to keep in the back of your mind when writing yourself. Alternatively, check Jeff’s twitter account:
A just-discovered blog post on outing oneself as a writer:
Coming out to the ones you love about your (alternative) writing lifestyle
©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.