I am a writer!

When can you call yourself a writer?

With that debate still unsolved, I continue to wonder if I can call myself so. After all, I am now a former Incident Coordinator, a former library assistant and therefore a former ‘employed being’ altogether. And that sounds rather bad for one’s ego when pondered upon too long.

Asked by people what on earth I now fill my days with when I’m forced to dedicate most of my days to rest and sleep, I simply tell them “I write.” Just “I… write…”

Instantly eyebrows raise higher than one’s crown chakra and a slight shaking of the head indicates the dismay – envy perhaps? – and inner thoughts that spell “this girl has lost it for good.”

Sigh.

Tiring to see their reaction? Yes.

A wee bit fulfilling? Most definitely.

This isn’t a fanciful new hobby however. This has been years in the making. If not decades. Considering I spent half my life either reading in a library or working in a library, the secret writer in me should have emerged sooner. Much sooner.

But it didn’t. Too busy being ill and all that, you see.

(Question… do all readers want to pen books themselves?)

No, writing is something that grows on you. I didn’t wake up one day and say “hey, you know what, I became a writer overnight so let’s go publish some books!”

June 2011 was the month I started blogging. Slowly finding words to match my inner state, my resolve not to let multiple sclerosis dominate my life anymore on a physical level. Baby steps turned into those of a toddler chasing a ball, a teenager running to her first boyfriend.

With some success, I found the basis of what I wanted my writing to be. A source of information for people with MS, an advocating tool for people with disabilities and a hangout for people who like books, photography and Ireland.

Spurred on by being nominated and then shortlisted for the Ireland Blog Awards 2013 in the best personal blog category, and on that premise, I decided to enter a writing course last week. Nobody’s perfect and I am fully aware there are things I can improve on grammatically. English is my 4th language after Flemish, Dutch and French, so I want to ensure that what goes on my blog, is sound enough.

With all this going on, the question of when one becomes a writer was put to me two days ago, and if you can (want to) call yourself as such without sounding arrogant or self-righteous. I’m not one to run away from existentialist questions, so my thinking machine was put to work.

Does it sound ostentatious when you call yourself a writer when you have no published work yet (your blog not included)? After all, you only call a person ‘doctor’ when he/she received their degree, otherwise we could call butchers, surgeons.

Are you saying you’re a writer to make yourself stand out, or because you want to be famous? If or when I call myself so, will I be any good?

In decades of roaming around in libraries, I’ve handled more books than you can imagine. Good books. Bad books. Really bad books. Books that should never have been allowed to enter the front door. And then some.

Existentialist questions not answered on my own, I went online and I found several blogs by people who asked themselves those very questions.

For example, Chuck Sambuchino on writersdigest.com says “it’s not the published book that makes you a writer. You’re a writer because of the things you notice in the world, and the joy you feel stringing the right words together so they sound like music. You’re a writer because you can imagine something in such detail that it comes to life. You’re a writer because you’re obsessed with making your ideas clearer, tighter, fiercer. You’re a writer because you have every reason to stop (it takes too much time, pays too little, and the rejection hurts too terribly), but you can’t do it. It’s not that you love to write so much as you need to write.”

Right now, I’m at the stage where I need, want and love writing so much. It’s on my mind most of the day, and when I just finished writing, it’s back on my mind 5min after pressing the ‘Publish’ button.

Michelle D. Argyle on the other hand, says “If you make a conscious effort to sit your butt in a chair/sofa/bed/floor and write on a consistent basis, you are a writer. If you are consistently producing material, whether you are publishing it or not, you are a writer. If you’re taking a break from writing and you have plans for when you will begin again, you are a writer. If you don’t have any honest plans to write again … I’m afraid you are on a break from being a writer, as well. If you’ve completed writing projects in the past, or published projects in the past, and you are no longer writing, then you are only an author, not an author and a writer. I think there’s a big difference there.” – See more at: http://michelledargyle.com/2013/08/07/iwsg-august-2013-when-should-you-call-yourself-a-writer/

The difference between an author and a writer is a whimsical one at best. Legal terms and personal and emotional feelings aside, an author is the originator of an idea for a book, or of certain content. A writer is someone who pens the book, article or blog post himself, and often the author and writer are the same person. And while a writer will always be an author, an author only becomes an author once his work is published.

A while ago I signed up for newsletters on Jeff Goins from Coppyblogger. Wanting to find out more how to get more traffic to my blog, I was inspired by the positivity of Jeff and the fantastic lists of how to improve your writing.

In this webpage, Goins talks about what real writers do that the rest of us don’t, and the answer struck like lightning: “They believe in themselves. They write confidently and courageously, without making excuses or apologies. And if you’re going to do work that’s worth anything, you’re going to have to do the same. Even if at first you have to fake it. You’re going to have to call yourself a writer.”

On when a writer becomes a writer, Goins explains the answer author Steven Pressfield gave him during an interview: “You are when you say you are. Screw what everyone else says.”

Upon reading this, that was it. Ping! A light – more like fireworks or the beam of a sea light tower – smashed into my head. Ta-dah! I am a writer. I am a writer! Screw you who think I am not, who think I am crap, who tell others how arrogant I am for calling myself a writer.

Suddenly a sense of relief filled my head, as if I woke up to my own reality just now. Aspiring? Hopeful? Wannabe? Silly cow? Haughty princess? Stuck up nerd? Ha… I am my own boss. I am a writer!

The last thing Jeff Goins added to this wonderful article on Copyblogger is this: “So what are you waiting for? Time to call yourself a writer — and actually believe it.”

I am a writer, and I believe it!

While I am here singing Jeff’s praise, do sign up for his work on http://goinswriter.com and read two of his eBooks, Wrecked for the Ordinary and Manifesto for Misfits. Delightful reading, and something to keep in the back of your mind when writing yourself. Alternatively, check Jeff’s twitter account: @JeffGoins

Please also check this blog post I wrote about writing:
Writing, a quiet observation (this post was also published on Writing.ie, the home of Irish writing online)

A just-discovered blog post on outing oneself as a writer:
Coming out to the ones you love about your (alternative) writing lifestyle

If you liked this blog post, please check following blogs on writing:

Marketing Your Book: Beware These Blogging Pitfalls

FIVE WAYS TO PISS OFF A WRITER: (AKA: TALKING TO WRITERS FOR DUMMIES) by Tawni Vee Waters

Writer anxiety

For more on writing, please check out these webpages:
The Write Life
When can you call yourself a writer?

© WVE and Ireland, MS and Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WVE and Ireland, MS and Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

14 Comments

  1. Ned's Blog says:

    What Jeff Goins said about writing with confidence is absolutely true, and one of the subtle yet not-so-subtle hallmarks of a good writer. Writing with confidence is easy once you stop writing in fear of not being good enough; you have to believe in what you’re saying, whether its a fictional story, humor piece or serious essay. You have to trust and develop your own voice and know how to recognize when it’s ringing true, or when it’s being influenced too much by other — particularly when that influence is from worry of not measuring up. Trust and fearlessness can either be a writer’s biggest obstacles or most effective springboards.

    Like

  2. Kait says:

    If you write, then you are a writer. Making the habit of writing makes you a writer. If you say you are, then you are. Period. It’s self belief. Why do we always question ourselves when we “grow up”? When we are 5, we make bold statements and say, “I am a writer.” or “I am a dancer.” And we believe it with all our hearts. Why then as we get older the belief fades like magic. We need to believe in magic more! :)

    Like

  3. Darrell C says:

    Great article, Billie! And you nailed it: writers WRITE! Plain and simple. Something you’ve done now long enough to say with certainty…right on through those raised eyebrows! ;)

    Like

  4. moore314 says:

    Wonderful, thoughtful, spot-on post! And just what I needed to hear today. I feel a kindred spirit all the way to an MS’er in the States. I am a former college professor and I used to be a pretty damn good writer. My biggest MS challenge to date is with cognitive skills and confidence. It takes me, what seems to be, forever to write. The thoughts and sentences are in my head, but when I get to the keys, they’re gone or sputtering! Especially when I’m tired – my best work is fresh in the morning.
    Enough whining. I’m looking forward to diving into your blog. Thank you for the suggested writing cites. Oh, and I’m entirely envious of your residence. I’m of Irish heritage, currently researching both grandmothers’ genealogy (Nolans and Sullivans). Wishing to get over there some day! Hope your feeling well — Colleen

    Like

    • Colleen–Hello from another MS’er in the US. Sometimes I have trouble typing because my hands hurt. That’s when I use my Dragon software. I’m not advocating the program, I’m advocating anything that you can talk into that will type the thoughts and sentences in your head onto the computer. It’s sometimes easier to rearrange those thoughts and sentences when you can see them already there, than trying to type them and rearrange them at the same time. I write beause it gets rid of the chaos I have running around in my head. Oh, by the by, I too have an Irishman or two in the closet. My great grandmother was Annie Fehy Conway.

      Like

      • moore314 says:

        Oh my gosh – thank you for the software tip! I actually recommended using a tape recorder (pre-good voice software days) to my college students that had trouble writing. (Most of them did but that’s another story about the state of education in the US!) I keep forgetting about trying something like that, but I’m posting a sticky on my computer right now – if’ its not in my face, it gets lost in my cobwebbed head. I’m popping over to your blog – thanks so much again!

        Like

      • Billie says:

        Great that people are mingling here, just what I wanted! Nice meeting you both on here ladies, there will be lots of crossing blogging borders here :D

        Like

    • Billie says:

      Thank you Colleen (what a great Irish name you have!), I appreciate what you mean about being tired.

      Perhaps just write whatever comes up in your head, let it get to your fingers and let a bit of stream of consciousness take over for a while. Perhaps it might just come back to you? I’m sure it’s all still in there, waiting to come out. I forget quite quickly; short term memory is awful.

      Feel free to dive around, sort of speak. And yes, Ireland is well… Ireland… still green, still beautiful. A bit more crowded than it used to be though :D)

      Like

  5. M E McMahon says:

    Anyone who puts pen to paper is a writer. People who make the words sing…those are successful writers. And, you? You are, in my opinion, a very successful writer! Be proud and continue to make those words sing!

    Like

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