There are people who are obviously writers, who have published books and live entirely off their craft, dedicating their lives to writing page after page of glorious text. Then there are people who are obviously not writers, who have nothing more to do with the written word than finger-pecking Facebook status updates and texting their friends. Many of us fall somewhere in the middle–we write when we can, when we are able to find time to and force ourselves to do it, but we also try to balance housekeeping, jobs, children, and everything else. Do you still count as a writer, even if you have never had anything published and don’t work at it all the time?
It’s hard to categorize people in the middle, and how you categorize yourself can have a huge impact on the way you write and the way you treat your own writing, even to the point of whether you determine to finish that novel of yours at all. It’s a question worth addressing and worth pursuing until you come to a conclusion. There are two factors I have identified as belonging to “real” writers, though they are vague, and it is still a highly subjective matter: experience and attitude. Let’s look into those in more detail.
I had a professor in college who was very fond of calling all of her students “beginning” or “apprentice” writers. I didn’t like that at all. By the time I was taking her classes, I had already had a short story published in a literary journal. I had one novel accepted by a publisher, and another one under (very serious) consideration. I was already starting to earn money from my royalties on Amazon for other novels. Why did this professor insist that I was only a “beginning” writer and not a “real” one?
I didn’t have the education. She had a master’s degree in writing and several published books, and had been teaching writing classes at the college since before I was born. Sheer time and education was what marked the difference between us. This still bothers me. There are many talented teen writers and writers who have no background or degree in literature or writing, but who are definitely writers.
However, there is still something to be said for experience. Whether it’s an English degree, a published book or work, or recognition in any kind of writing community, you should probably have some kind of intensive experience with writing if you are going to be considered a legitimate writer and not just a writing wannabe.
This is where things get tricky. A lot of people might have a little experience and the desire to be a writer… but never make it to that point. They never finish things, and they never see themselves as writers. I believe it is important to take your own writing seriously. Finishing a novel makes you a novelist, but unless you understand the significance of that you will never find the time or energy you will need to complete it.
A great way I have found to achieve this mindset is to play the writer. For me, this might mean fixing myself a cup of hot tea and sitting down at my old-fashioned typewriter for a while for no reason other than it makes me feel like a writer. And when I feel like a writer, I get more excited about my own writing until I am finally ready to take it to the next step. There are other ways to do this as well. Maybe you can manually schedule a time in your planner for you to write every day and treat it like a serious appointment. Maybe you should take your laptop or a notebook to a nearby coffee shop and write in public for a while while sipping some coffee. It might feel awkward at first, but the results will make a difference in your attitude both toward yourself and toward your writing.
Not everyone is cut out to be a writer, and if you think you are, it will take work to make that dream happen. But writing is a serious business, and don’t be afraid to do what it takes to give it all you’ve got!