At What Point Do You Call Yourself A Writer?

According to the dictionary, a writer is one who writes. Yet most writers don’t consider themselves “real” writers unless they have been published. Is it because the literary world is responsible for dubbing a person a “writer”? Or is it because writers lay that definition on themselves? I think it is the latter.

I remember the first time I ever heard “a writer is one who writes”. To test the theory, I started calling myself a writer. Of course, the first question people asked was, “Where have you been published?” or “How many books have you written?” My own mother said, “Until you’ve had something published, don’t call yourself a writer.” You will probably run into the same thing, but let me give you a clue:

Friends and family will never look upon you as a writer, no matter what you do.


15 thoughts on “At What Point Do You Call Yourself A Writer?

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  4. Dunno if I’m sure of what I am, I suppose if people want to read the book I’m a writer and if no one wants to read it I’m an aspirer…
    so you tell me… would you read it???




    1. Then let me help you out. I went to your site and read the blurb on your book. You’re definitely writer material. Not that I know all there is to know, mind you, but I would be happy to share a few pointers on what I see – if you wish. Keep writing!


    2. Congratulations on your book! I visited your site. I can feel your excitement.
      I apologize for not answering long ago but I’ve been in the wilderness of Colorado
      on vacation. You wouldn’t want me to give up four-wheeling in the Rockies to work,
      would you? 🙂 > I think there’s a book within most people, and there is always
      someone who will like that person’s writing. Writing is so rewarding. Keep at it,
      and drop again sometime.


  5. Hey Brian. Good to hear from you again.

    Question: If you wrote for a small town local newspaper, would you still call yourself a writer? I would. If you wrote stories and only read them to your children, would you still call yourself a writer? I would.

    Taking a chance on getting published doesn’t make an author a writer. It is the muse that is inside and fighting to get out that makes a person a writer, regardless of what venue they choose to expose their craft – or not expose it, as the case may be.

    And as for “god-awful reads,” I see that in a lot of newspapers. Now honestly – haven’t you seen that, too? But perhaps those authors are writers who are just finding their way into being called a “writer”.


  6. Ah, but an intern actually treats patients. Until then, they’re just a med student.

    I consider myself a writer. I write for a good-sized newspaper. I’ve been doing so for eight years and have been pretty successful having written hundreds of stories.

    Not all of them were good, of course. But at this point, I would consider myself good enough to give reasonable advice on the basics of writing and more detailed advice on the nuances of newspaper writing.

    I have a good stack of rejection e-mails and letters from my fiction, so I don’t consider myself a fiction writer. I’m not so sure I’d consider myself a fiction writer even after (if?) I first get published.

    I certainly wouldn’t consider myself qualified enough to dole out advice.

    I just can’t accept a wishy-washy answer that “anybody who writes is a writer.” This reeks of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” pandering. Certainly all are welcome to consider yourself a writer, regardless of your publishing history.

    But isn’t there some considerable ego and gall involved for someone to call themself a writer who has never published anything? I feel sheepish calling myself a writer and I’ve been doing it for years now.

    At its most harmless, calling anyone who writes a writer invites hackery and some god-awful reads.

    At its worst, you could have people taking (and paying for) advice from people who have no business teaching.

    Sure there are a lot of gray areas in between being Dave Eggers and writing hack poetry. Self-publishing is one interesting gray area (especially given recent events like screenwriter John August selling a short story on his own over Kindle), though I find it tends to encourage self-indulgent first drafts.

    But there has to be some standard or the term becomes meaningless. Otherwise anyone who leaves a response on this blog is a writer.

    Honestly though, anyone who has to make a case that they’re a writer probably isn’t a writer.


  7. I can kind of see the point being made in this post, but…

    …would you apply that to any other vocation or title?

    Would a “doctor” who has never treated a patient really be a “doctor?” Even more important, would you trust such a “doctor?” What about a car mechanic who’s never fixed a car?

    Honestly, I think too many people consider themselves “writers” without really knowing the sacrifices, research, effort and inevitable heartbreak involved. Everyone knows someone who dashes off “poetry” or writes incomprehensible prose with no regard for the craft.

    I guess the question is this: is any fool who can put pen to paper a “writer?”

    I’d argue that there needs to be a culling involved. Having published works seems to me a very reasonable standard.

    It’s certainly a reasonable standard when deciding whether someone’s advice should be heeded or not.


    1. Hi Brian – thank you for your comments. I do very much understand the point you are making. But I urge you to remember your younger writing days. What day did you become a writer?

      Most assuredly, following a published writer is a good way to go. No doubt about it. But when you speak of a published writer, was the writer published in his church bulletin? Local Newspaper? Union Gazette? City newspaper? Or do these kinds of publications not count? At what point does a writer become a writer – to you? How many publications must they have published, and where before they earn your respect?

      Yes, I can compare a writer to a doctor very easily. Interns usually man the emergency room, yet they are introduced as “your doctor”. They have training and experience, but not yet in the “real world”, so to speak. Yet you put your life in their hands. Are they a doctor?

      A car mechanic who has never fixed a car still gets their first customer because they have training.

      Or is it the training that makes a writer a writer? A doctor, a doctor? A mechanic, a mechanic? If so, exactly what kind of training makes them become their title? And at what point do they actually become what their title says they are? When they study? When they graduate? When they have their first customer? Their 100th customer?

      But I concede the fact that many writers have not reached (and may never reach) the understanding of research, investment of self, rejection, and heartbreak that we “real” (?) writers know.

      By Webster’s standards, a writer is one who writes. Maybe Webster said that because he could see all the gray lines.


  8. I totally agree!! The thing is that one may write as much as ona can, but in order to complete the process, some one must read you…
    Once a (writer) friend of mine said that SHE considers herself a writer because she makes a living of it… I don’t know if that could be a reason.
    Any way, yes, I totally agree: a writer is one who writes.


    1. Does it necessarily follow that a writer must be read in order to be a writer? I don’t think so. Think of genius writers who are yet to be discovered. They were writers all along. The world just didn’t know it yet.


  9. Hi, my tag surfer landed me to this post. Hmmm. The ole what to call yourself dilema. I find that most unpublished writers are called writers and published writers are called authors. And among the published, I believe they mean books or novels and not short stories published in magazines. I may be wrong.


    1. No doubt about it, we have our own way of tagging those within our ranks – I’d have to agree with that. But my point is that someone who journals every day (for example), is a writer. Man, that is work! When a writer begins to SAY they are a writer, things change in their lives. It is the next step to do something bigger than they have done before.


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