This is a rant, guys. You are warned.
Lately, I notice a lot of my friends apologizing for being writers. I’ve been noticing this increasing in my presence as I’ve had some success, especially with people I’ve just met, or old friends who weren’t self-identifying as writers when I saw them last.
“I wrote this book,” they’ll say, “but I’m not a really real writer. Not like you.”
The flavor varies. “Yes, I write a blog,” they’ll say, “but I’m not a writer.”
“I only write short stories,” they’ll say. “I’m not a writer.”
“I don’t write every day,” they’ll say. “I haven’t written this week. I’m not published. I’m not really a writer.”
When I press, I often uncover a different story. This friend has finished three novels. This friend attends a weekly writing group. This friend’s blog is quite good. This person is a writer. This person knows they’re a writer. But there’s this meta-think going on where they think that I won’t think they are a writer.
In general, it makes me feel sad to hear people apologizing for who they are. Specifically, it makes me sad to hear writers downplaying their own work. Even more, it upsets me when people use me as a comparison to put themselves down.
I started self-identifying as a writer when I was nineteen years old, finishing my first novel. My writing was not good. It was not published. I was not skilled. But I wrote. That made me a writer.
Not that anyone else took me seriously. Besides my mother. Thank goodness for my mother. When I told her I wanted to be a writer, she told me to go stand in a book store and look at all those people who made it as writers, and ask myself why it shouldn’t be me.
Other people weren’t so confident. I didn’t listen to those other people. For years, every time I told people what I was doing with my life, they scoffed. “So what are you going to do really?,” they’d ask.
Eventually, the scoffing stopped. It stopped around the time I finished my undergrad, and didn’t get a real job and forget about the dream. It stopped around the time I had three novels finished. People stopped scoffing at me, and started looking really confused. I wasn’t fitting the wanna-be writer script anymore. I was something else that people couldn’t quite figure out. I think part of what confused people was my confidence. I had sold exactly nothing. But I was not ashamed to call myself a writer.
Because I was a writer. I had been all along.
Now people I meet get really excited when I tell them about my writing. Sometimes I just want to roll my eyes. Where were these people when I was nineteen? They were scoffing at me, that’s where they were.
But I’m the same writer now that I was then. I’m just farther along in the process.
Others may disagree with me on this, but I think that if you write, you are a writer.
If you write a blog, you may be a blogger, much like I am a novelist. But we’re both still writers.
If you are not published, then you are not a published writer. But you’re still a writer.
If you don’t want to make a living at it, then writing may be a hobby for you. If you can’t yet quit your day job but want to, then writing might be an investment for you. But you’re still a writer.
If you write non-fiction, you are a writer. If you write fiction, you are a writer. If you are *gasp* self-published, you are a writer. If you write *gasp* fanfic, you are a writer. If you write occasionally, you are a writer.
It is okay to be whatever kind of writer you are. But if you write, you are a writer. Please don’t apologize for being who you are.