I’ll often see or hear someone say, “I don’t know if I can really call myself a writer…” And sometimes, it’s someone who I know is writing! A lot! It drives me bananas.
Some things are really simple, and this is one of them.
If you write, you are a writer.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t gone to college, or if you haven’t published your work anywhere. You might be a brilliant writer, or you might be a writer with a metric fuckton to learn, but either way, congratulations! You’re a writer!
If you don’t write, you are not a writer.
It doesn’t matter if you think about writing all the time, read articles about it, and read lots of books and take copious notes. That makes you someone who wants to be a writer, which is cool. But if you really want it a lot, you should probably do it.
And it doesn’t matter if you got a degree in writing, or if you published something in the past. If you go without writing long enough, you are someone who used to be a writer. Which is absolutely fine also—we don’t have to keep doing everything—unless it’s not fine with you.
It’s awesome to be a real writer. You wake up in the morning knowing you’re going to plot something, express something, or create something. Life may be repetitive, or depending on your situation, actively depressing, but you have an antidote to that, and it’s in your own head.
If there are parts of writing you suck at, you can get better, as long as you are open to learning. Don’t act like you should have been born knowing everything, and it’s humiliating that you weren’t. Mastering something after being awful at it is a pleasure we experience often as we’re growing up—when we’re learning to ride a bike, or do long division—but we don’t get to enjoy as much as adults.
Pursuing success and an audience and other outward rewards is great, as long as it doesn’t eclipse the pleasure of writing itself. I love the movie Titanic, and in one scene, some rich people ask Jack over a fancy dinner to sort of justify his existence. Jack’s an artist who has gotten almost no recognition or respect for his work so far. He tells them he’s got everything he needs in life.
Escaping into daydreams during a meeting (uh, not that I would ever do that), mulling over a notebook and a coffee at a café, chatting with a fellow writer about writer stuff…these are things you can enjoy right now, and it’s a beautiful thing. Because you’re a real writer.