Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor

Are You a Writer: Take Two

By Lazette Gifford
2007, Lazette Gifford

It's far too easy for people to worry about the philosophical question of what makes a writer -- or any other kind of artist -- and let it fester in their minds.  It's the kind of question that sows doubt and allows others to dictate some outside focus or goal, often artificial, that the person has to achieve before he can allow himself the lofty title of writer. 

In the real world of writing, it doesn't work that way:  The answer is in the action, not in how the action is accepted by others.

A writer writes, yes -- but he or she also finishes projects, which an include editing and submitting if publication is the goal.  All the worldbuilding, note-taking and talk about writing does not make a person a writer. Neither does having file folders full of unfinished projects.  Blogging, chatting on line and letter writing does not make a writer, except sometimes in the form of a journal writer.

For some writers, publication is not the goal.  Some people will tell you that you're only a writer if you've made a sale.  There are two problems with this definition. The first is that there is no sudden, overwhelming difference in the writing between the moment the person reads an acceptance of a story and the moment before.  Publication is an external verification of ability only.  It may be the goal, but it is not the definition of a writer.   The second problem is that anyone who died before their material was published could not have been a writer during their lifetime... which is logically impossible. 

Another problem with the question of 'Are you a writer' is that it assumes there is a single answer that will work for all writers.  Obviously, writers are not all the same, and the break point most writers consider is often the before and after of publication acceptance.  There is an easier way to think about this:  You are a writer, and then you are a published writer.  Both do the same level of work, and there is no huge change that takes place from one moment to the next just because an envelope held an acceptance rather than a rejection.  The change has all come in the steps the writer took to learn the craft.

Writers improve their craft throughout their careers, both before and after publication.  One does not achieve 'writer status' and then suddenly have everything learned and laid out for the rest of their work.  Every book, story, poem and article is a learning process and an adventure.

There are people enough who will tell you why you're not a real writer:  you don't write the proper genre, you don't take it seriously enough, you write too quickly, you don't write enough, you don't suffer enough for your art, or a dozen other reasons that have nothing to do with what you do as a writer.  Don't add to the negative, outside voices.

Worrying about whether or not you are a writer is a waste of precious writing time and energy better put to creating a new story.  Don't analyze being a writer -- become one.  Go write something.