This blog has been written to give you one piece of advice today: call yourself a writer.
It took me a while to learn this myself, perhaps because there are some misconceptions about what a ‘real writer’ is. Tell someone you are a writer and they might say “have you been published?” or “might I have read anything you’ve written?” And if the answer to these two questions is no, we might feel kind of like frauds by calling ourselves writers.
But the thing is, you don’t need to be Stephen King or a journalist for the New Yorker to call yourself a writer. You don’t even need to get paid for your writing in order to earn the title. Know what you do need to do? Write. That’s it. Write something – anything – and do it regularly. It doesn’t all have to be great, and not everything you write will be. But if you are just starting out and you want ‘writer’ to be your job title, you need to wear that label from the word go.
Calling yourself a writer is so important because once you decide you are a writer, you have to write. Use the title as motivation – you can’t call yourself a writer if you’re not putting pen to paper regularly, so you have to live up to your name.
It can also give you a sense of purpose, and feel – as it should – like part of your identity. And when you’re churning out stuff you’re not happy with, or getting rejections from lit journals, or struggling to find paying writing jobs, sometimes it might feel like that title is all you have to cling onto. It can help you to cultivate the self-belief you need to keep going.
Writers come in many forms these days. You don’t have to find an agent, be accepted by a publisher or work for a publication to be a writer. You can self-publish, or start your own publication, or write purely for your own enjoyment. There is no huge gap between a best-selling author and you, sitting at your computer now, staring at a blank page and wondering if your time will come. Think of all the writers whose books got rejected several times before they finally got picked up. Getting published and finding writing jobs is a bit like dating – if you’re a talented writer the trick is to find a good match. Getting rejected doesn’t mean your writing is bad. It just means your story hasn’t found the perfect partner yet. Being a writer isn’t about being picked up by the first publisher who claps eyes on you. It’s about persevering – it’s about getting into good writing habits, practicing, honing your craft, submitting to agents or magazines or whatever your goal is, or self-publishing something, and helping other writers, and if you fail, getting up and trying again, developing a thick skin and believing in yourself and your work.
You’re not an aspiring writer or a budding writer. You are not a person who wants to be a writer – if you write, you are officially a writer. Congratulations.