A writer? Where?

I read a blog today about someone who was surprised to be introduced by her friend as a writer, a scenario I could relate to.  I love my friends.  They are a supportive, encouraging, funny bunch of people, and I’m truly fortunate to know every one of them.  And yet, I have been known to berate them when they introduce me to people with: “This is my friend Katy. She’s a writer.”  I will smile politely through gritted teeth at this with a certain grace, but when I have them alone I beat them to a bloody pulp and scream at them to beg for mercy.  Not really.  But I will say something along the lines of “No no no! You can’t call me a writer.  It hasn’t happened yet! I’m not getting paid for my writing! My book isn’t finished!” Or similar.  Basically, I have always thought that to be considered a writer, you need to be published.  Now, when I think about it logically, I realise just how ridiculous that is.  Duh, Katy.  Obviously there are loads of writers out there who haven’t been published, who probably deserve to be.  Admittedly, there are also people out there claiming themselves to be writers, sending in absolute garbage to publishers (my days working at a major publishing house can attest to this) who are not getting published for a very good reason.  Even so, I know just from looking through the writing blogs on the wordpress.com site, that there are plenty of people out there who I would identify as writers, who may sadly never get the chance to be published.

I liken it to the philosophical riddle: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If a writer writes and never gets published, is she still a writer? Um, are you stupid or something? In the event that you are – like my inner paranoid writerly self – stupid…then the answer is, of course, yes.

At the Melbourne Supanova this year, I spoke to Australian fantasy author Jennifer Fallon and expressed my concerns about making it as a writer and how I would know if it was time to try a different life long dream that I might actually succeed in without failing miserably and finding myself at the peak of my youth with nothing to show for it except a blank page and no money and a room full of rejection letters and…  Pause.  Breathe.  Where was I? Ah, yes.  So, she gave me two excellent pieces of advice:

1.  She could not guarantee that I would be published if I kept writing.  But she could guarantee that I wouldn’t if I stopped.

2. She told me that even when she was a checkout chick, she was a writer.

I think these are very sage pieces of advice that apply to any aspiring writer.  Firstly, you need to be viciously persistent and never give up.  Giving up is a sure way to fail.  Period.  And secondly, that a writer is a state of being.  Whatever else it is you do to pay your mortgage, put clothes on your back and feed little Felix or Jack or Poochiepoos…that there, that’s your job.  Your occupation.  Your money-making, food-on-the-table, 9-5 day job.  Some people are lucky enough to have writing as their job.  But even when you’re not getting paid for it, even if no one will publish you, even if you never show another single soul out there what you have written, if it is who you are, then you my friend, are a writer.

~storytelling nomad~

14 comments on “A writer? Where?

  1. Brilliant article. I’ve begun to describe myself as a writer but I often get my close friends and family saying that I’m not. In their eyes, you’re only a writer if you’re published and/or earning money from it. In my eyes, I keep writing and will keep writing wherever my life goes in the future.


    • Thank you! And poo to them! If that were the case, then we could surmise that JK Rowling, with her completed manuscript, synopsis and proposal, was not a ‘writer’ the first 12 or so times she submitted to publishers that turned her down. Noooo, she only became a writer with that same manuscript on the day that someone else said ok, we’re happy to make money from you. Rubbish!

      Admittedly, I’m still not comfortable shouting from the tree tops “I AM WRITER!”…Maybe I won’t be fully convinced until I see my name in print…but that doesn’t make it any less true.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I’ve self-identified as a writer for a long time, even when I wasn’t letting others read what I wrote. I get different reactions whenever I’m introduced as a writer, all the way from “Cool!” to “What do you write?” and “Where are you published?” The thing I encounter most seems to be doubt though I never have figured out why “I’m a writer,” prompts it. I guess it’s as subjective as anything.

    Anyway, awesome article!

    • Thank you Whitney. Yes, I think the old tweed jacket image of a writer is slowly being replaced with a much cooler, artistic type reputation, thank goodness! I think doubt and self-doubt come with the trade unfortunately. Thanks for reading!

  3. Very well written Katy and a good motivational message for anyone who might despair and give up too quickly. Failure is after all an essential ingredient of self-improvement and success.

  4. Hey girl! I ran across your comment on my blog so in true nosy other blogger form, I had to see who you were. Then, in true skip around until you see something that catches my eye form, I stopped on this post. That’s my same philosophy for buying books by the way – whatever looks good, funny, or insightfully intriguing/confusing goes in the shopping bag! I digress. I loved this post. I always get upset when my friends introduce me as a singer because I’m not a professional as of yet. The advice you were given was phenomenal. Short, to the point. And I read #2 as being said so cold (matter of fact and confident). #1 was my favorite though. That’s honest and a great perspective to have for reaching goals. When I debut on the stage and you publish your first novel, I’ll remember reading this. Love.

    • Hey there! Thanks for nosying on by! I loved your post on chivalry and seem to have had similar luck…in not actually finding any!

      I’m glad you liked the post. It does seem to be a persistent plea amongst aspiring artists that we don’t claim the title of our desired profession until we truly see ourselves as professionals. What exactly classifies as ‘professional’ is where the line gets a bit blurry, but we’re determined nonetheless!

      As for your debut on stage, if your singing is as good as your writing, and by the looks of how gorgeous you are from your avatar, I’m sure the chivalry will be coming your way in droves!

      Thanks for stopping by and happy reading/writing/singing!

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