Am I A Writer?

Last weekend I found myself at Louisville’s Writer’s Block Festival, a daylong series of workshops, panels and public readings. Several professional writers, representing both popular fiction and the academic creative writing world, shared their insights. Pulitzer winner Adam Johnson was scheduled to present the keynote address late in the day.

I grabbed a coffee – lots of cream, lots or sugar – and strolled down a long row of booths occupied by literary journals, indie publishers and schools pimping their MFA programs. At every booth, I was ambushed with the question “Are you a writer?” Each time I struggled for an answer – the panels and readings and workshops were filled with professionals who had stacks of books for sale, writing degrees and resumes that read longer than their works. What do I have? I have five or six pieces of flash fiction published (for no pay), a Hunter Thompson T-shirt won in a writing contest this past spring, and a $5 coffee coupon won in a weekly competition (thanks, Anisa!).

So I kept answering ‘sorta,’ ‘kinda,’ and ‘not really,’ almost apologizing for my paltry output. I left pissed at myself. Not because I’m not a writer, but because I couldn’t find the cajones to admit I am.

Of course, I’m a writer. I might not be Hemmingway, but who gets to define what a writer is? Everybody has their own definition. Are real writers only those who make a full-time living at it? Only the ones who receive critical acclaim? Those who write ‘real’ poetry and books, as opposed to humor, limericks and children’s stories? Do you have to get paid? Do you have to be published, and if so, are there parameters as to what counts and what doesn’t count?

Are there levels of writer-dom? (“Him? He’s a writer, but not a real writer.”)

I got home, grabbed a beer and pondered the question. Am I a writer? Eventually, I asked myself another question. Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve got a t-shirt, some magazines and a couple of websites that say I am. I’ve contributed stories to a coloring book coming out next month that, assuming it makes money (a pretty safe assumption) proves I’m not just a writer, but a professional writer. My ego is growing by leaps and bounds.

So the next time anyone asks me if I’m a writer, my answer is ‘Hell yeah, I’m a writer!’

I’ll put the question out for everyone else– What’s your definition of a writer, and do you qualify?


Author Notes

2 Comments for “Am I A Writer?”

Raymond Tobaygo

says:

Good morning, Dave

Apt question. If getting published is the defining factor of being a writer, then like you, by the very definition, I am a writer…though Koontz doesn’t have to look over his shoulder quite yet. I was told in one of my classes that if you want to write just for you then keep a dairy, if not, then write with the goal of people reading your work.

I think a writer must continue to read the works of others, be it in this community, other sites, or works of published authors. Writers must evolve, improve and find their style that makes each unique.

Take care and stay safe,

Ray

charles stone

says:

You’re a writer, I’m a writer, everyone on this site is a writer. When you words to paper and allow others to read it and critique your hard work, you are a writer.
Period.

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