On Writing: Becoming a Writer
Updated: May 25
When's the right time to start calling yourself a 'writer'? Can we be prescriptive about this type of thing?
I first started writing at the age of six. I wrote everything from (terrible) short stories to poems. I slotted my work under my parents' bedroom door before they woke up and awaited their feedback.
It was clear, from early childhood, that I wanted to be a writer. But it seemed, for a long time, to be an unachievable ambition.
During my teenage years, writing was a steady hobby of mine. But while my friends who spent their free time on gymnastics felt they could proudly proclaim themselves gymnasts, I still found the idea of calling myself a writer laughable.
Only when I found my degree (BA Creative and Professional Writing) did I realise that I might be able to make this a career. For three years, I studied alongside likeminded people, and we shared our collective identity crisis. We worried about whether we were writers or not together.
But even when I poured everything I had into my course, even when I graduated with a First Class degree, I still struggled to use the word. When I did, the conversation tended to go something like this...
'Hi Lily, nice to meet you! What do you do?'
'Um... I'm a writer.'
Oh really? That's so weird, because I've written a book. Would you like to read it?'
I found it bizarre that other people, who hadn't invested nearly the same amount of time or study into the art of writing, would happily declare their talent with confidence. Were they right to be so bold? Was my confusion about them, or about me? About my own insecurities?
All you need to write is a pen and some paper. Maybe a laptop. It's pretty accessible. I couldn't walk into a secondary school classroom and start teaching geography without the training required. But nobody can stop anybody from writing.
So when do you start calling yourself a writer, if the term is so easily and widely applied?
I think this is a very personal question.
For me, it was once I landed my first paying client. That was when it finally felt real to me. To Cara, the term has felt comfortable for a little longer. To some, the term might never feel right.
If you're reading this, you're probably a writer, too. Only writers care this much about writers. It's a pleasure to meet you, reader.
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