When Can You Call Yourself A Writer?
Does being published make a difference?
You walk into a flagship Waterstones, or Barnes and Noble, and there in the foyer is your book. It’s in the top ten chart.
Not only are you published by a major publisher, you’re also a best-seller and the evidence of that can be found in any bookstore. At last, you’ve made it.
The sales and rave reviews tell you that your writing is good.
You make enough money to leave the day job that you’ve hated for years.
Your friends, family and colleagues finally see you as you truly are – a Writer with a capital W.
Yes, validation is nice
The validation of being traditionally published with best-seller status would be nice. But that doesn’t make you a writer.
Writing makes you a writer.
Are you working on a writing project at the moment? Is it a blog post, an article, a short story, a novel, a non-fiction book? Have you put words on the page recently, no matter how good or bad you think they are? Then you’re a writer.
Maybe you love to write letters or poetry or an account of that time you saw the Taj Mahal at dawn. Those things make you a writer too.
The problem with seeking validation
I remember one evening at my local writers’ group, a new member had joined who had started writing in his retirement. He was 80% of the way through his first novel and wanted someone to confer on him the status of – yes, it’s good, you can write. He thought being published was the way to get that and that a publisher would take him by the hand and show him everything he needed to do.
The problem with looking towards someone else for that validation is that you might not get it. It’s possible to send your work off to literary agents or publishers and hear nothing back. They might reject you, not because your book is crap, but because it’s not right for them to sell at the moment.
You have to find the motivation from within to write. When you have this, and muster it up regularly, then nothing can knock you off course.
My novel, Tales of the Countess, is self-published and unless I can generate a gazillion sales from my own efforts, it is unlikely ever to be stocked in a regular book store. People have bought it online and have given me lovely reviews. Book bloggers, who don’t know me, gave four and five star reviews.
The validation was lovely, especially from the book bloggers but that isn’t what made me a writer. The twenty years of work on the book, thirteen drafts, lots of learning, dealing with negative feedback, mistakes, rewrites, writing alongside a day job, keeping going as my aging parents needed increasing amounts of my time, the joy of bringing my characters to life and see them decide for themselves what they wanted to do and say – that’s what made me a writer. I had to generate the motivation to do all that by myself, or there would have been no book and no reviews.
We crave certainty
My friend at the writers’ group wanted certainty. He wanted to know that it was worth spending the time on his writing and that publishing would guarantee a good result for him.
But creativity doesn’t work like that. It’s a very uncertain business. You have to plunge into the dark, conjure up a collection of words from your deepest, often darkest, thoughts and then splat them down onto the page. Sometimes they will work and be ‘good’ and sometimes they’ll be crap, or miss the mark, or not be what you expected.
There are no guarantees that the effort you put into your work will pay back in the dividends you seek.
Creativity is really about the process, not the result. Writing a book will change you. Writing a short story will change you. Writing a blog post will change you.
When you write, you are expressing your truth. You might discover aspects of your truth of which you weren’t aware.
You are bringing something to life that didn’t exist before – even if no-one else gets to read it.
The fact that you write matters
The fact that you find time in your busy life and put your thoughts on a page, this matters.
Whether you share your words with others or keep them to yourself, the act of writing them matters.
If you write, then you’re a writer.
If you have a half-finished novel – you’re a writer.
If you have a non-fiction book that has gone a bit off course and you don’t know how to recover it – you’re a writer.
If you publish a blog that only your Mum, your best friend and three other people read – you’re a writer.
Writing makes you a writer. Pick up the pen or get to that keyboard, and get on with it!
Your writing matters.
What makes you feel like a writer?
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