What makes someone a writer? When do you have the right to call yourself one? When you’re published? When you finally finish the manuscript? When you get paid for something you’ve written? When someone else writes about your writing, i.e. a review? When Amazon says so? When Goodreads says so?
Being a writer is not the same as being an author. And it is not like other callings. You know when you are a teacher or a carpenter or a nurse or a car salesmen. There is no doubt. But writer? No one offers you a golden ticket certifying your license to write. No one anoints you with a special seal.
So when can you call yourself a writer?
There is plenty on the internet—cutesy stuff—about being a writer: You’re a writer when you are a “word hoarder” or you’d rather write something than say it or you simply like to read. These are not ingredients, in my estimation, that lead to the definition of a writer.
But who am I to be the keeper of the definition? (Read: Screw The Rules)
Still, writers can be a neurotic bunch, needing affirmation, needing to know, yes, I am a writer and not just someone who puts words on paper.
So, in that spirit, what makes a writer? Here’s what I think.
There are three simple things. This is not a definition; this is an artistic mantra.
FIRST: You don’t need permission. Just start writing. Be what it is you want to be.
SECOND: Dedicate yourself to a project—a short story, a book, a play, a poem—draft and redraft, edit and edit again, and then finish it.
THIRD: Share it. It doesn’t matter how. Let others read it, hear it out loud, post in a blog. Get it out there.
It is not about being traditionally published. It is a not about other writers accepting or applauding what you do. It is not about payment. It is about thinking, doing, and sharing. That’s it.
This may seem overly simple but in reality, it is not. Just getting started can be most difficult. Keeping at it can be even harder. Finishing is always tough. How many people say, “I have this idea, but…” or “I’m writing a book and I just can’t find the time to finish it…” or “I’m stuck and don’t know how to keep going…” or “I’ve written this poem but I don’t want to show it to anyone.” There are hundreds of excuses not to be a writer.
Writing is hard work. If someone developed a pie chart with percentages of the elements that make up a writer, hard work would be 90% and that work would include frustration and doubt. The rest, the 10%, would combine truth, imagination, and word skill, all coming together at 100% in dedication to the art form.
So, what makes someone a writer?
Begin. Dedicate. Share.