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Hello Dear Readers,

This one goes out to my fellow scribes: when is it appropriate to call yourself a writer? When you’ve had a book published? When you put your story up for sale on-line? When the only person who has seen your work is your mother, as you quietly pound out your fiction on a computer in your basement?

Are you a writer even when you’re not writing anything? So often I’ve heard the admonishment, “Writers write. It’s what they do. Period. If you’re a writer, you must write.”

Really? What about when you’re too busy, or lack inspiration? What about those days, weeks or months where you just can’t manage to find the time? Are you any less a writer because you’re going through a time of low productivity?

It may not be as catchy, but I think the saying should be changed to: “Writers want to write. And they try their best to find ways to accomplish this.”

People tend to be fairly touchy about labels, and this isn’t restricted to writing. My blogging buddy Kimberly Belle was once attacked about a fairly innocuous post where she called herself a chef. Some people took issue with that, saying she was “just” a caterer. It’s unbelievable how incensed one woman in particular became about a title.

For myself, I’m not comfortable with people calling me an “author” or a “novelist”. Yes, I’ve written several novels, but until the general public can access them, I’ll stick with “writer”. Even when I don’t have time to write, I’m still a writer. (And I’m always writing during my day job, this blog, and my freelance business. Can’t escape that.)

The problem is, if you tell someone you’re an “author”, the follow-up question is invariably:

“Oh, what’s the name of your book? Where can I buy it?” or “Would I recognize your name? Would I have read anything you’ve written?”

Writer can sometimes generate these responses, too, but not nearly as often.

What do you call yourself? Have you ever been in the position of having to defend your title?

Thanks for reading!
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  1. Cigarista

    Writers write. You can’t just want to write. Then you’re a wanna-writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re not inspired. It doesn’t matter if you chose to use all your time on something else. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer.

    You can be a blogger or a traditionally published writer or a POD writer or an unpublished writer. There is really no reason to be unpublished these days if you really want to be. There are billions, well, maybe a little less, of places to publish on the web, including your own website if you like.

    I do maintain that you have to write. You may be a good writer or a bad one, amateur or a pro (getting paid), published or not but you can still be a writer if that’s how you’re willing to spend your time.

    As Red Smith once said, “There is nothing to writing; all you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

    I’m Mike Smith and I’m a writer, sometimes paid and published. Just go write.

  2. Jocé

    Ah yes, this is an interesting question. Once at a writerly thingie we were asked to wear name tags and include our genre. Impulsively I wrote “poet” under my name, well… if looks could zap. (of course I should have put “poetry”) Hmm.

    These days I like to think of myself as a practicing writer. Or practicing poet.

  3. Story Teller

    Thanks for the interesting food for thought, you two.

    @ Cigarista – I don’t necessarily agree that a writer has to write all the time to be a writer, but I do agree that there are a lot more ways to be a writer now than ever before.

    @ Jocelyn – I like the idea of “practicing” writer. That just could be the solution! And you are a poet, no matter what the haters say. 🙂

  4. Ankush Samant

    I liked your viewpoint and pretty much agree with it. I have just one suggestion, write as long as you want to write, the moment you start writing without heart or mind, it becomes an exam paper, that too a mugged-up one 🙂

  5. Story Teller

    Hello Ankush!

    Welcome to my blog, and thank you so much for commenting. I love comments. 🙂

    I completely agree. Some people advocate writing every day, even when you don’t feel like it, but I think that only works when the discomfort is early on. If it continues, and you feel miserable, best to take a break and leave the writing for another day.

    Of course, that’s only my opinion. Stephen King would argue with me.

  6. Ev Bishop

    Cigarista sums up my sentiments pretty well. A writer writes. I don’t care about their schedule, though. How, when, how much, what–all that’s personal–but it does mean new words with some sort of regularity.


  7. Story Teller

    Whew! Good thing I have the blog and freelance work, or I’d be feeling pretty defensive right about now. 😉

    New words, I have plenty. They just aren’t fiction these days.


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