For aspiring writers, it’s really, really hard to know if you are actually a writer. It’s an idea that’s stuck in a nebulous cloud of ambition and uncertainty.
The simplest definition of a writer is someone who writes. Which basically means that most of us are writers. We all double-check our spelling on important emails and reread our clever Facebook posts.
However, by that broad definition, then anyone who has boiled pasta for dinner is a chef! It really isn’t that simple. And it’s a question that tends to bother most unpublished or self-published authors and bloggers. Do we have the right to call ourselves writers if only about 10 people have read our work? How do you know if you’re a writer?
Hobby versus Career
There are lots of people who enjoy writing. It’s a wonderful way to explore thoughts and get lost in our imagination. However, it’s harder to decide when writing goes from being a hobby to one of the ways you define yourself.
We all have hobbies. I like to sew, take long bike rides and grow vegetables. But I’m not quite ready to announce that I’m a seamstress, a pro cyclist or a farmer. While they are my hobbies, they don’t define who I am at this point in time. (Tour de France here I come!)
Six Ways to Know if you’re a writer
Here are six ways to know if you’re a writer. I would say that each of these, individually, defines a “real” writer. And as you progress in your writing career you’ll probably achieve all six!
- You work on developing your writing skills: Joni B. Cole defines a writer as someone who is willing to work hard on their writing. Writing is a craft. It requires time and commitment to learn how to write well. Whether you’re a corporate writer, blogger or novelist, it’s pretty easy to tell when someone has worked on developing their skills.
- Someone unconnected to you has read your work: If someone who doesn’t know you and isn’t a friend of your mom’s, has read your work, then it means you are published. It could be in a magazine or on a blog, but if you have readers who don’t personally know you, then you’re definitely a writer!
- You participate in a writing community: If you’re serious about writing, then you should participate in a writing community. This could be in the form of a critique group, an online forum or a professional association. I have learned so much from my writing friends. Everything from where to find workshops and courses, how to apply for grants and what to expect from a publisher. And it’s always nice to have someone with whom you can celebrate successes and cry over rejections.
- An editor, agent or other professional has provided feedback on your work: It’s really easy to submit. It’s much harder to receive actual feedback on your writing from a submission. If you got a personalized rejection letter, then you’re definitely a writer. Editors and agents receive tons of submissions. If someone took the time to personally respond, then it means that your writing is close to a professional level.
- You’ve gotten paid for your writing: This is probably the holy grail of writing… actually getting paid for something you wrote! Even if it’s only $35 for an article, if you got paid for your writing then you’re definitely a writer.
- You tell people you’re a writer: It took a long time before I admitted to anyone outside of my family that I was spending all my free time writing. It took even longer before I was willing to describe myself as a writer. If you’re willing to introduce yourself as a writer at a party, then you’re definitely a writer!