Since my son started kindergarten, I’ve gone from having six hours at the computer each day, to two. He used to be in an all day preschool, but now he’s in a morning only kindergarten class. I have tried to work while he’s home, but it’s just not working. I can read, though, which is something. But now I’m reading a lot more than I’m able to write.
I’m also tired, because keeping an energetic five year old occupied isn’t exactly easy, and I find myself doing things that don’t require much thought. Such as, arranging my bookshelf and workspace, re-organizing my files, checking the stats on my blog, etc. Blog stats are fascinating, by the way (Resident Alien and Carrie Harris did a post on this not long ago, and now I understand the fascination). I’ve had visitors from the UK, Australia, India, even Cyprus. And I don’t even know where Cyprus is. I also get to see what people are searching for when they land on my site. So far, the most common thing I’ve seen is “How do you know if you’re a writer?”
That’s a good question.
Being a writer is a profession, like being a doctor, contractor, or pharmacist. You perform a service that benefits others (entertainment and enjoyment). But how do you know you are one? Because you’re published, i.e. get paid? Because you’ve scribbled a few words on a page? Somewhere in between?
Personally, I think it’s none of those things. To me, calling yourself a writer is a state of mind. Why do you write? To share a story with others? You have nothing better to do? To become rich and famous? If you answer "yes" to that last one, you might want to find a more lucrative field. :) To all others, ask yourself this question:
What would happen if you stopped writing?
My answer is simple: I'd go crazy. Then, I'd slowly drive everyone around me crazy. So, it’s really in everyone’s best interest for me to keep writing.
Because of this, I’ve decided that writing is what I want to do for a living, and I’m willing to put in the insane amount of work required to get my stuff out there on the shelves. Whatever I need to learn, however much I need to write or research, I’ll do it. I won’t quit, ever. And, even though I’m not published (yet!), I recently started calling myself a writer.
I’ve spend the last seven years or so learning as much as I can about writing, and about the publishing industry. I sought it out, asked questions, did writing exercises, analyzed published works, brushed up on grammar and punctuation, etc.
I see this as the equivalent of going to school to be a computer programmer. You can’t write programs if you don’t know the language, so you put in the work to learn. Once you’ve graduated, you go off to find your first job – at this point, even if you haven’t found a job yet, you still call yourself a programmer. If you didn’t, then what was the point of all those years at school? If you’re going to enter a different profession, you’d have to start all over.
So, I don’t believe that you need to be published in order to call yourself a writer. I just think you need to ask yourself two questions:
Is this what you really want to do?
Are you willing to put in the tremendous (i.e. insane) amount of work it requires?
If your answer is “yes” to both, then grab a sword and dub yourself with the title of Writer! :)