When can you call yourself a writer?


It’s something I’ve struggled with over the past few years. I know a lot of people who happily call themselves ‘writer’ and it always seems slightly intimidating, as if there are a certain number of steps you need to pass before some mysterious being grants you permission to use the word.

A writer is, after all, simply a person who writes.

But there’s more to it than that. My idea of a ‘real writer’ is the one I am trying to live up to; romantic illusions and all. So, yes, I own a typewriter. I like to make notes with an actual pen and need a minimum of four notebooks at any one time (the same way I like to read). My work has been published online, more than once, and by people other than my friends. That’s something I’m really proud of, and I continue to look for cool places to pitch my writing.

There’s other things I associate with real writers, ranging from the serious to the you’ve-been-reading-too-much-Louisa-May-Alcott;

Getting paid for writing. Seeing your name in print. Authoring a book. Letting other people see what you have written. Ink smudges on your cheeks and fingers. Actually sitting down to edit your work. Winning an award or competition. Being featured in an anthology. Guest blogging. Royalties.

When it comes down to it, calling yourself a writer is more about your self-confidence than anything else. Since literature is so subjective, avoiding the title because there are many others better than you makes little sense.

The first time I switched from describing myself as ‘wanting to be a writer’ to ‘writer’ was on a country entry form on the border of Bolivia and Peru. The paperwork required an occupation. Too old to consider myself a student and eager not to feed the flames of hopelessness by calling myself ‘unemployed’ too early; ‘journalist’ sounding potentially suspicious, and besides didn’t account for the fact that I wasn’t, really, anymore – I put ‘writer’ down.

After that, I began introducing myself that way whenever I met anyone new (every five minutes on the road). Knowing how to pronounce the word in Spanish helped a lot. It didn’t require explanation, so I slowly became used to it.

Hi, I’m Kate. I’m a writer.