Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Claiming the Name of "Writer"

The other day, I was talking with a friend who has lived the life of a writer for many years, has published and been produced, had an agent and attends a critique group. However, because life and schedule has kept him from writing during the recent past, he now seems reluctant to call himself a writer. It got me thinking about the whole process of whether we call ourselves writers to the outside world or not and the significance of that decision.

For me, "taking the plunge" to call myself a writer didn't happen overnight. You could say it's been pending since I was 8 years old, but the true shift has only happened during the past 5-10 years. There were many steps that led me to give myself permission to say, "I'm a writer:" Writing for an audience besides myself. Getting paid to do it once in a while. Being asked to do it for work, to help others with their writing. Shifting from assignments by and for others to writing my own stuff again. Letting people read and hear my work besides my husband and parents. Connecting with other writers. Setting myself writing goals and working towards them. Seeking to learn and improve upon my work. Asking for criticism and learning to accept it. Attending conferences. Submitting lots of pieces and getting lots of rejection letters. Hearing other people call me a writer. All of these led me to feel I had earned the name of writer and continued to merit that name.

On the other hand, many of those steps would never have happened if I HADN'T started calling myself a writer first. Perhaps by claiming the name, I set myself a level of expectations to be worthy of that name. And I still find it odd to say, "I'm a writer," as if someone will ask me for my writer's license or the secret code word to the club and then they'll discover I'm a fraud. But I get more comfortable with it as time goes on.

By the way, I basically told my friend that once a writer, always a writer, or, as the saying goes, you can't unring that bell.

Have you claimed the name of writer? What did it mean for you to do that? If you haven't, why not?

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