Are You A Writer? Really?

writing

By Mary Jaksch

Hands up if you mumbled something like, “Well, I suppose I am, but…” or even, “I couldn’t really call myself a writer, because…”

I admit, it’s taken me a long time to say, “I’m a writer.”

Even after my first book Learn to Love was published and translated into many languages, I still couldn’t say these four simple words, “I am a Writer”. Why? Because I’m nothing like the writers I look up to. I thought of them as, well, WRITERS. And I thought of myself as a writer. Like, someone who writes a bit but isn’t the real deal.

Is this thought pattern familiar?

It all changed one day when I was having a conversation with my friend Steffie who was eight years old at the time. She asked me,

“What’s a writer?”

I answered, “A writer writes.”

Later I realized that I had given myself the answer I was looking for. Because being a writer doesn’t mean being outstanding, fantastic, or deserving of the Pulitzer. It means that you write.

For a while, I stuck notices up in every room of my home saying: “A writer writes!” Now I’m cool with that, and love it when someone asks me what I do. I immediately say, “I’m a writer!”

I find that this simple saying is a great motivator. When I’m in a bus, or at the hairdresser, or at any other ‘inbetween’ time, I remind myself of the action that makes me what I am: “A writer writes.” I whip out my notebook and start writing. Try this mantra and see what happens!

What about you? Are you a writer?

If you can’t answer with a clear ‘yes’, what are your barriers?

Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at Write to Done. Grab her FREE report How to Write Like an A-List Blogger. Mary has helped thousands of students successfully create outstanding and profitable blogs at A-List Blogging and is the blogger behind Goodlife ZEN.

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54 thoughts on “Are You A Writer? Really?”

  • I write everyday but I find it hard to call myself a writer. I still have a lot to learn. Maybe, “aspiring writer” is more appropriate. :-)

    It is interesting that we usually define ourselves by our occupation and not our passions. “I am a teacher, salesman, entrepreneur, blogger, etc.” NOT “I am a runner, guitar player, writer, movie watcher, eater, barbecuer, etc.”

    I wonder if our focus on jobs will ever change?

  • I’m a writer just as I’m a martial artist, a surfer and a basketball player.

  • Yuro says:

    I’m a writer then….. In fact my mother is a writer, my father is a writer, and my friends is a writer because they write right? I think its in believing yourself that you are a writer that makes you a writer and not just what you do.

  • Ellyn says:

    Exactly: I wish more people would come to that same realisation. Writing has become so… elitist in the public eye.

    Just want to say that this is the best blog on writing I’ve ever come across.

  • the jodi says:

    I find it a lot easier to say “I’m a writer” since the company that was my day job went out of business.

    Now I write full time, go to school, worry a a bit about how I will pay the bills when unemployment runs out, write some more, make a plan to look for “real work” before unemployment runs out, have lunch, write some more.

    I have more time to: go to readings, work with other greener writers, promote my own work, help more seasoned writers negotiate some of the confusing parts of social media, read, research, rewrite, edit.

    The more time I can devote to writing, the easier it is for me to say “I’m a writer”

  • Everyone has their own definition of what it really means to be a writer — and that’s the way it should be! I think we should all be free to figure out for ourselves what the definition of a “real” writer is….and then be that or not.

    For me to see myself as a real writer, I have to earn a living writing. Even if it’s a measly income and even if I have to mow people’s lawns on the side (or accept writing jobs I dislike)…I have to be making money from my words to feel validated as a writer.

    Of course, that could change as I grow up!

    Laurie
    Quips & Tips for Successful Writers

  • Jim Taggart says:

    Thanks very much for this post. It’s about time that this topic comes out in the open, especially with the rapid growth in blogging and personal websites. Although I’ve been writing professionally for over 25 years (but only a neophyte blogger), I am not a ‘journalist.’ I recall CBS 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer not too long ago making disparaging comments about blogging.

    Whether it’s because of arrogance or ignorance – perhaps a combination of both – the mainstream media looks down its nose at what it sees as amateurs in the blogging world. But all one has to do is view the crappy journalism emanating from FOX News, tabloids or shallow magazine journalism to realize that we’re clearly undergoing a huge paradigm shift in how information is communicated to the public. I like to think it’s about the democratization of news, views and opinions.

  • Great post! I always tell myself that when people ask me what I do, I’m going to say “I’m a writer, but I also work at…” which is how I think of myself. Instead, I always reply, “I work at…. but I’m also a writer.” Your post reminded me of how much I need to change how I talk about myself because I am, always have been, and always will be a WRITER! :)

  • Allena says:

    I’m a writer because I write for a living. although I’ve noticed that when I speak about my career to people, I generally say “I’m a freelance writer & editor” because then they won’t ask my what novel I’ve written :) . Just a little clearer, I guess.

  • Hilary says:

    Hi Mary – great analogy .. a writer writes. I love my writing and have enjoyed the blog process – allowing me to experiment.

    Thanks I look forward to reading more –
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  • Hi. My name is Lori and I’m a writer. I’ve started describing myself to people as a writer but it still sticks a bit when I say it. The more I write, the more I believe it and that’s where it really happens. It helps me to say “Among other things, I am a writer.”

  • Karlil says:

    Some day, I’m going to tell to the people loud and proud that I’m a writer. But today is not that day. Great post Mary.

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one, Mary :)

    Last year I went to a workshop put on by an Australian publisher, and the chief editor said, “If you have that intense desire to write, then do it.”

    I’ve felt that desire my entire life, but I’ve only really started believing it’s possible in the past few years. It’s a shame I wasted all that time.

    Thanks for this post.

  • Yes, I am a writer too! I love to write, I have the ability to write, and I do, indeed, write! When I don’t know what to do, I write. When I don’t have something to write with, I get nervous that I’m losing track of random nuggets that I didn’t want to forget.

    We are where our hearts are. I would like to be more published, but it doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. In the same way, a person who loves engineering is still an engineer, even if they’re unemployed or employed as something else at the moment.

    Thank you for this post. I really enjoyed it!

  • Yes I’m a WRITER!

    Thanks for the affirmation. Recently I’ve been brainstorming all my passions and thinking about how I can create a living based on these passions. Being a writer is definitely in the top three of the most passionate professions I have.

    Or, as they say in show business, fake it till you make it!

    Cheers,
    Endy

  • Elly says:

    It would be so much easier to call oneself a writer, if doing so didn’t immediately require defending in so many contexts. I know I’m a writer, can say that when I choose or want to, but I don’t always want to share that and then have to field the next dozen questions about whether and what I’ve published, or what famous writers I know that the person I’m talking to has heard about. I wonder, does this mean I only acquire credibility as a writer by knowing famous writers and not by virtue of the fact that I write? I have had so many odd and annoying conversations when I say in public that I am a writer (don’t for heavens sake ever do this on a long flight!) that sometimes it just isn’t worth answering, ‘what do you do?’ with ‘I’m a writer’. Funny, when I say I’m a textile artist the conversation is over!

  • Shang Lee says:

    I still can’t find the courage to call myself a writer, for the very same reasons you’ve just outlined, that the others whom I consider a writer is someone much better than me, and is someone that I probably will never be. But that’s the thing isn’t it? Trying to be someone else. I guess the most important part about writing (to me) is to be myself. Then, whether or not i’m a writer, I’m just myself, which is probably more important than being labelled as a writer. There are not a lot of avenues that I’m comfortable to be just myself. Writing gives me that privacy, that strange environment where between the words and my thoughts, something magical happens. I hope that magic spills over to the other people who believes in magic, and especially those who doubts magic!

  • I didn’t dare tell anyone that I’m a writer — only said that I liked blogging / writing — as I feared the next question that came after that, which is: “so how are you going to make money from it?”

    In its very essence, you’ve defined a writer clearly… a writer writes. That’s helped me cut off the nagging inner voice and doubts in me.

    This post made my day. Thanks Mary! :)

  • Yogesh Malik says:

    For me, it is very difficult not to write, sometimes impossible. More writing got me in to more reading. I wasn’t a reader before. Written words have a lot of power and they shout for commitment towards what’s written.

  • Kat Eden says:

    I started calling myself a writer about 6 months back. Despite the fact that the majority of my time is still caught up in my business rather than in writing. But it’s amazing how powerful that simple affirmation has been in constantly calling my attention to my blog and my other writing projects, as well as in building my confidence day-to-day and creating the belief that I will become successful and profitable as a writer.

  • Yes I’m a writer. Fortunately I can also say I am an editor as that’s my day job. But the writing is a state of mind. You write for publication, you are a writer. Forget the elitist stuff, how many of us are going to win an award for our work, but make a supplementary living out of it or a profitable hobby or just have a really good time? That’s what counts.

  • Manivannan says:

    This is a very inspirational post. It gives me the guts to call me a WRITER, for the simple reason – I WRITE. Not because I make big bucks out of writing, not because my articles are published in mags – but just because I WRITE I call myself as a WRITER.

    And the only criteria one should have to call himself/herself as a writer is, one should be able get across what he/she intends to communicate. No matter if you write a single line, a haiku or an epic, If you’re successful in communicating what you want to communicate, then, by all means, call yourself as a WRITER :-)

    Now, do anyone disagree with me for calling myself as WRITER?

    Thanks a lot Mary for this wonderful post!

  • Eric C says:

    No, I’m not a writer. Because I haven’t been published or sold anything.

    Now, blogging sort of mucks everything up because it lowers the barrier to entry, and clearly my URL indicates I participate in a blog. But for me, being a writer means accomplishment, it is a title worthy of respect and admiration. I can think of only a few other jobs that anyone could wake up in the morning and suddenly decide they are one.

    I’ve written about this before on here, but I take the opposite route of the author. A writer writes. He doesn’t have to say a mantra to do it, he does it naturally. What you describe is someone who wants to be a writer. A writer already is.

  • the jodi says:

    Writing, like alcoholism, is a self diagnosed disease.

  • Manuel says:

    Best blog of this year.

  • I shy away from calling myself a writer when people ask. I don’t know why. I’m always writing for my blog, I write for freelance projects, I’m always working on a fiction project. A large chunk of my time is used for writing.

    The only reason I can think of for shying away from saying I’m a writer is summed up nicely in this post:

    “Because being a writer doesn’t mean being outstanding, fantastic, or deserving of the Pulitzer. It means that you write.”

    I’m a writer because I write.

    Great post. Thank you!

  • Dana says:

    There is something skin tingling about saying those words, “I’m a writer.” It carries such weight in my mind. Keeping the thought to myself is somewhat comforting–and maybe it allows me to cling to complacency, to fear.

    I expect it all to change. And I’ll start by claiming…I too am a writer.

    Thank you!

  • I actually created a wallpaper a few weeks ago to remind me of this very thing: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidturnbull/3881370514/

    :-)

  • CueZee says:

    Well, perhaps many have the perception that writers are people who produce fantastic particles and books, which is why we are so reluctant to call ourselves writers. The standard and definition of a writer has been etched so deeply in our minds that often than not, we tend to compare ourselves to the great and belittle ourselves as a result. Perhaps a little confidence will do the trick.

  • After publishing 3 books and ghost writing another, I can finally call myself a writer! And it feels great.

    Thanks Mary for giving us this insight.

    Also, I am a writer, not a fighter:-)

    ( A great song by Gilbert O’Sullivan – you can check out the lyrics here – http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/g/gilbertosullivan1648/imawriternotafighter78133.html)

  • Chrystal says:

    I am a Writer. I’m just not a highly paid Writer, but nonetheless, I am a Writer, and I love that about me.

  • I always wanted to be a writer – it was a holy grail for me. As a stay at home mom, I fell into writing for the local, weekly paper. I got a weekly paycheck and had stories in the paper and yet . . . One night at a church committee meeting we were discussing an upcoming event. Someone mentioned we needed some publicity. Another person said, “Let’s get our professional writer to do it.” My ears perked up and I asked in awe, “We have a professional writer in our church? Who is it?” Confused looks turned my way and the woman said, “You. You get paid, right?” And completely stunned I realized, I was not only a writer. I was a professional writer.

  • Scott B says:

    I AM a writer. It took me a while to figure that out. What I am not (YET) is an author. I find that differentiating between the 2 helps me to keep reaching for my goal of a published author.

  • M. King says:

    Great blog!

    I agree, there are differences between types of writing, motivations for doing so and so forth. I write to support myself, but equally I can’t imagine not writing. It’s a part of how I encounter and engage with the world. The old phrase may be that ‘anyone can write; only real writers edit’, but it’s just as true that every writer does, indeed, *write*.

  • Joshua says:

    These are really important questions that writers need to ask themselves. Someone doesn’t need to stop writing if their true answer is “No, I am not a writer.” It can really be quite liberating for some of them. Consider the following article by an announced non-writer:
    Unbecoming a Writing, or, Exploding Cigars
    Some would argue that she is a writer. Maybe she can only write the way she does because she knows that it is no longer how she associates herself with the idea of being a writer. Now she just writes when she feels so inclined… and stops beating herself up for not writing while calling herself a writer.

  • Tedel says:

    OK, you needed some self-assurance.

  • gooddog says:

    I too am a writer. No, I’ve not been published, but I’m a writer nonetheless. I find it significant that in many of the responses, being a writer and being commercially successful as a writer are equated. To me, it’s the same as being a cook or being a chef. (i am both) There are many many people who are highly skilled cooks, but chefs by definition are compensated for this skill as their primary source of income.

    This is the lesson I’ve learned recently and my comfort level calling mysellf a writer grows with each passing month.

    Just because you are a good or even great cook, that in itself doesn’t make you a chef. Just because you are a writer and not published doesn’t make you any less of a writer. It’s two entirely different skill sets.

  • Gilbert Ross says:

    Thanks Mary for reminding me this. I shall confidently call myself a writer from now on :)

  • I love that Mary. =) A writer writes…delivers acceptance and relieves self-imposed pressure, doesn’t it? Nice quote.

  • Converse says:

    To simply write isn’t good enough–there are so many that can write, something has to separate you from the common man that picks up the pen. What makes a writer? Then, just a bit further: What makes a writer transcendent in prose or poetry? So few every glimpse the “promise land”: that eternal realm where writers live for every…

  • Lisa Damian says:

    I can totally relate to this! It has taken me years (and the publication of many magazine and newspaper articles, short stories, and a book) to become comfortable with providing the simple answer of “writer” when asked what I do. One of my epiphany moments was when a neighbor’s fifth grade daughter asked to interview me for her career day report because she thought it would be interesting to interview a writer.

  • You’re right, Mary. A writer writes. I think many writers don’t succeed because they like the “idea” of writing more than actually writing.

    I mean, that’s the sort of thinking that kept me from playing the piano when I was a kid. I liked the idea of pounding out great music, but I didn’t like sitting down and practicing. A piano player plays piano.

  • Eric B. says:

    I’m a writer, I’m just not a very good writer. :P

  • Mary Jaksch says:

    Eric’s comment: “I’m a writer, I’m just not a very good writer” made me reflect about how we get to become writers. It’s different from the kind of talent like playing an instrument or tennis.

    This morning I was reading in the local Argentine papers about Juan Martin del Potro who just won the US Open. (He’s a hero here). Juan Martin started playing tennis at the age of 6.

    Writers also start at six. That’s when we first begin to learn to read and write.

    It seems to me that becoming a writer somehow creeps up on you. It’s the kind of talent that grows as we use it.

    To my delight I’m finding that I write better now than I did two years ago. And I’m confident that I’ll be able to write better two years down the track.

    Instead of saying “I’m a writer, I’m just not a very good writer”, I say:
    “My writing skills are continually improving.”

  • For me, it’s more of a distinction between what type of write I am. By day, I’m an engineer that routinely writes technical reports. So, sure, I’m a writer.

    But my new passion is my blog, which is completely unrelated to engineering. The blog is about having an awesome marriage, and it allows me to be creative, attempt to be funny and use great photos. I have only been at it for about 3 weeks, but I am starting to feel more like a “real” writer!

  • danielle says:

    Agreed! It’s all about the do-ing verb.

  • Boris says:

    Dear Mary, I respectfully disagree with anybody calling herself “a writer”. A “writer” is a label that tries to describe somebody but it doesn’t make justice to anybody.
    I would prefer to describe this situation as “I write” , this is a more precise description.. ;)

  • Omar says:

    I’m a writer.

  • Oh so many years I resisted declaring that I was a writer. Mostly because the next question was invariably – ‘have you written anything I’ve seen?” And the answer was always no.

    But funnily enough, it’s amazing how lovely it feels to stand up and say I’m a writer. I love it. I’m proud of it. And I still get the awkward questions but hey, I write. That’s what makes me a writer. :)

  • nicole says:

    but i’m just a kid.. can i really be a writer?

  • Written says:

    This blog post sums up my feelings! I am glad to have chance upon your article. I am a writer as well, a freelance writer to be specific, I am still new at it but I am learning. I started writing since way back and I love love to write. So, I write. Right, so I guess..yep I’m a writer.. I think. Hehe

  • Polish-Guy says:

    Really enjoyed reading,shall visit again.

  • When I began writing (which was recently by the way), I did shiver a bit before deciding what to say to those who met me and asked me “So, BrownEyed, What do you do?” And I did eventually say something more of a sentence with the words “abcdefghijklmnop….I write….abcdefghijklmnop”.

    You see, so I was indeed a little worried as well. Since I have read people who write and are *extremely creative* (like Paulo Ceolho for me), I wasn’t sure to compare my self to that. But then after this went on for a few days (I kept meeting new people, my new partner has a huge friends’ circle), I decided it was enough. After all, that’s what I REALLY do. I wake up, see my partner off with lunch box and a peck to office, grab some espresso for myself, get my laptop, look at the day’s agenda, and start off with assignments. So, where did I lie? No where. I stopped hesitating after a few days and now am completely comfortable with the idea.

    Thanks for the useful post.

    Oh and by the way (where are my manners?!), hey everyone here, am BrownEyed, the Writer! ;)

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