Calling yourself a writer feels a lot like Michael Scott declaring bankruptcy: as Toby informs Michael, that is not exactly how it works. You can’t just say something and call it into existence.
But maybe you can declare something, and then take action. Maybe the declaration is necessary as a writer. I don’t know about declaring bankruptcy; I think the rules for that are a little more cut and dry. But as for writing, let the record show I am pro-declaration.
Here’s what I think (and where I disagree with Toby): If you write, you are a writer. If your writing is published, you are a published writer. Anyone who writes without a gun pointed at their head can call themselves a writer. But if you want to be called a good writer, well, there is no label so solidifying as that.
There are many writers who have been published, who are bad writers. Just because you are published, does not mean you are a good writer. So, that stinks.
The thing is, if you are looking for validation, you will likely find it. Plenty of people will tell you that you are good at writing, if you ask around enough. Plenty of people will tell you that you are terrible at writing, too. Plenty of publishers will turn you down. As they have turned down many-a-good writer.
I want someone to tell me I have what it takes. But for every person who tells me that, there will be at least one other person out there who thinks I don’t have what it takes. This is why you should never put your self worth in the hands of others. There is little comfort in their opinions.
Being a writer is about writing. It is not about being patted on the back. It is about being the best writer you can possibly be, because that is the best you will ever be, and no more. The only feedback you can ever trust is what is given to you by people you trust and respect. And in that case, you are only a good writer to them. There is also Time, which is perhaps the fairest judge of good writing. But it’s still all a little shaky, isn’t it?
There will always be doubts in the minds of writers as long as there are sentences left to form. But you won’t ever be a writer unless you call yourself one first. I hesitate to call myself a writer because in doing so, I feel like an imposter. Because I am not published. Because I only have this blog. And also because calling myself a writer is totally terrifying. It means I have something to live up to. It means I am opening myself up for judgment. But this is the year for dispelling fears, so I am going to take the leap.
I’m a writer, because I write. I am a writer, because I am working on getting published. I am slowly but surely working on a novel that I will attempt to have published before I die. That may not be good enough for you, but it is good enough for me. And so, I am a writer.
The rock solid truth behind the sentiments of this post is: if you don’t declare it, you can’t fail. By saying I am a writer,I am throwing “failure” into the mix of possible outcomes of my writing journey. But failure is just as subjective as “good writing” is in this instance. And who is afraid of failure? Not me.
How silly this all sounds, now that it is in the open. How silly to be afraid. How silly to declare bankruptcy.
So I ask you this, all of you aspiring writers (or aspring anythings): will you call yourself a writer with me? Let us declare that we are writers as boldly and confidently as Michael Scott declares bankruptcy. And then let’s write–and keep writing until we have become better than anyone else who shares our same thumb print.
P.S. Why writing is terrifying…