When does a writer become a Writer?
Contributor
Written by
Anne Parks
October 2012
Contributor
Written by
Anne Parks
October 2012

I am new to the whole world of blogging, so forgive any transgressions I may commit.  After a long dry spell, where I essentially turned away from writing (which had always been my first love), I found another sweetheart and started down that road.  My creative side, however, did not “go quietly into the night,” and was reawakened.  I apparently need to write, as opposed to simply wanting to write, as evidenced by the numbers of stories that are floating around in my head that I then feel compelled to write down.  I am fairly certain that I will be solely responsible for any bump in retail sales at my local office supply store based on the amount of legal pads and pens I have been purchasing lately.  Yes, I am old school; all of my first drafts are handwritten.  I have to number them to keep them in order.  It is ridiculous.  My husband just shakes his head, and laughs.  He is a huge supporter of this “new writing thing” I am obsessed with, even though he cannot fully understand the compulsion to write 23 hours a day. 

Previously, my creative writings have all been short stories; or more accurately, incomplete and undeveloped musings that are eventually thrown away.  I know, for shame!  Never throw away an idea, no matter how underdeveloped.  There is always a chance it will spark something later.  What was it my professor used to say, “Throwing out any creative thought potentially means the world is without a great classic novel.  You just never know?”  Well, my aspirations do not include becoming the next Jane Austen or E.L. James (although, that is some research I can get behind!).  Oh, I want to be published, and I would like to actually make some money, if for no other reason, to support my writing habit (see note above regarding the purchase of pens and paper).  My question is: when does one become a writer, in the sense that it becomes your title?  Everyone, and I dare say, especially women, are asked “What is it you do?”  Stay-at-home Mom, Attorney, Taxi Driver…Writer?

I am unaware of the rules, written or unwritten, or industry standards which dictate when someone can claim they are a writer.  Perhaps they do not exist, and it is up to the individual to decide if they are a writer, as well as the person inquiring.  It seems, though, that there should be some standard guidelines as to legitimacy of the claim.  In other fields, this is established by licensing.  Attorneys are attorneys when they become licensed.  Bad things can happen when you make the claim without actually being licensed.  Same goes for doctors and nurses.  Other fields may require a specific type of degree.  Writers, however, can come from all walks of life.  Writers are not solely English Lit majors with an emphasis in creative writing (yes that was my major, thank you very much!).  Pick up any book at the bookstore, and read the author’s bio.  They typically have had a life before this calling which may have had nothing to do with writing, and is often the basis for their book. 

Writing is storytelling.  Some people can tell better stories than others, and that is the delineation.  Sit and listen to children tell the story of an event during their day.  One child may struggle with the correct words, or give the basic, “this happened, and then this happened, and then I came home.”  The other child may tell the exact same story, but illustrate it through words and bring it to life.  The old adage that everyone has a story may be true, the caveat being that not everyone can make a story compelling enough for people to want to hear it (or read it).  But I digress.

Perhaps the difference lies in what term is used: writer or author?  Anyone can be a writer.  You just have to write. (I know - I was uncomfortable even typing the words!)  An author, on the other hand (cue the harp music and bright halo light) is legitimate.  An author is published.  That would be a demarcation, but does not really answer the question of when you can legitimately claim the title of “Writer.”  I would submit that maybe it is an individual assessment of how much pain can be tolerated answering the follow on questions of “what have you published?” and the like. 

So, have I answered the question?  I doubt it, but then blogs rarely solve issues.  They are random thoughts, hopefully coherently constructed and offered to the world for comment.  I am open to all comments, but please be gentle.  I am merely a writer in the making.

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Comments
  • Anne Parks

    Thanks, PM!  I appreciate it!

  • PM Kester

    I love your blog entry.  I totally agree.  I found myself saying the same thing about being a journalist.  I am no longer a reporter but I do sometimes freelance for news outlets and I am always seeking the truth and conveying it through written word - which to me still makes me a journalist even though I am not a "full time/paid" reporter.  I agree with many of the points your made in this piece.

  • Christine Moffatt

    Love your post and I completely relate.  

    I finally admitted that writing was my passion my calling after years of graduate school pursuing degrees that validated me to society.  The joy, pain and love I have for writing didn't fit the framework I'd been raised to believe was my path.  I wrote in secret. I wrote legitimate "papers" for school and hoped they would quench my thirst to put words on paper. I worked as an assistant to a "writer" and edited another "writer's" work never thinking I could say that about myself, but I wished I could.  Then, my life took this crazy, unexpected turn about 4 years ago and everything began to change.I noticed how other women had such confidence in defining themselves. They declared themselves to be designers, mothers, volunteers, lawyers, working mom's and a myriad of other titles.  For all my education I feared calling myself anything beyond wife and mother for a long time because I wasn't bringing in the big paycheck.  Then, my mother came very close to dying in front of me on more than one occasion. She had heart failure and it's unpredictability made me realize how true it is that we aren't promised tomorrow.  I thought about my identity how I wanted to be remembered. I don't mean by the masses, but by my children.  I wanted them to see who I really am.  For the first time I could see myself clearly and it was as a writer.  Suddenly, what others called me or thought of me didn't matter.  I needed to call myself a writer because it's what I am. Published, unpublished, blogger, humorist, whatever I am a writer.  That decision to be myself and start putting my words out there on my blogs and some other articles led to working with an agent on a memoir that I am trying to finish by the end of this year. Hopefully, I will get it published or I will do it myself. Becoming a writer, opened a door to meeting some amazing and supportive people and fellow writers of all levels. They've become my support system. Can I pay my mortgage on my writing right now? No, not yet, maybe not ever, but it's who I am at my core and I'm not afraid to say it anymore. 

  • Nancy Hinchliff Writing

    If you're trying to decide whether or not to call yourself a writer, first thing you should do is to forget about rules and any industry standards that may or my not exist. Just go for it! Learning to blog is a great place to start. I wrote my first memoir based on posts from one of my four blogs. Good luck and have fun with it.