Friday Five-O: Am I a "Writer"?

Can you call yourself a "writer" if you have not been published? I have not been published and feel like a liar when I introduce myself as a "writer" at parties, even though I spend the majority of my time banging away at my keyboard. 

-- Identity Crisis Chris

Hi Chris,

Can I call you “Chris”? I’m just saying, since we’re not sure whether I can call you a “writer”?

I’m teasing. Actually, your question is quite common, and you can bet that every “published” writer has asked themselves the very same thing at some point in their lives. Of course, “unpublished” writers have also asked themselves this question, before either a stroke of luck or sufficient self-regard made them feel like they had earned the right to call themselves a “writer.”

I’m not really sure why we’re putting things in quotes here. To put something in quotes is to begin to define it, I guess, since it might mean different things to different people?

Isn’t that what dictionaries are for? To help us out here, I have put together a little glossary: we’ll call it, THE WRITER’S DICTIONARY. Maybe we’ll publish it! I kid. I kid because I care.

writer: someone who writes.

getting published: the act of making a piece of writing public. Getting published indicates that someone else is doing (some of) the public-making.

self-publishing: the act of making a piece of writing public. Undertaken for a host of reasons including financial, creative, and relational ones.

good writing: they finished it.

criticism: they didn’t like it.

getting paid: deriving some benefit from your writing whether cash, barter, product placement, or beer.

success: now, you didn’t think I was going to define success for you, did you, Chris?

fans: they told you they liked it (see, good writing).

haters: think they could have done it better (see, criticism).

sales: determined by the following formula -- desire of the purchaser divided by price of the product, multiplied by product availability plus whether or not purchaser thinks this is something in their best interest, to the karmic power. I don’t know what the formula for sales is. But if you figure it out, let me know, who’s your buddy, huh?

editor: someone who has seen the next draft of your work, in their mind.

proofreader: hopefully, a discreet fellow. Someone who knows that we all make mistakes.

making a living from writing: deriving all of your cash and beer from writing (see, getting paid).

memoir: what happened to you.

novel: what happened to you on some level.

poetry: what happened to you with different punctuation.

non-fiction: what happened to you and a bunch of other people.

networking: always a good idea.

belief in oneself: also, always a good idea, especially when you are trying to figure out if you belong among the things you love, Chris. You do.

Over to you,


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