Defining Yourself as a Writer

Years ago, I sat down to write and just didn’t feel up to it; I woke up with a backache at 3:30 a.m. (due to an accident), and couldn’t return to sleep.

I’m sure that many of you have those days. How do you handle them?

Me, I sit down in my chair, and I just say to myself, “Dave, you’re a writer. So write.” Then I open the latest work file and start typing. It’s usually that easy. I don’t need Hemingway’s shot of liquor or Coleridge’s two grains of opium to get me going. I just find a quiet place, sit at the keyboard, and ponder the job at hand.

I became a “writer” at the age of sixteen, when I first began typing on a manuscript in secret. I didn’t need to be published. I was writing for the joy of it, without much hope that anything I wrote would ever qualify for publication. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re writing, you’re a writer.

I’ve known people who don’t believe that they’re writers. They think of themselves as “hoping to be a writer someday.” What they really mean is that they hope to be published someday.

But those people will find that even after they get published, they won’t feel like they are real writers. Too often, they will go to their first book signing or their first convention and worry that some nameless authority will seek to unmask them, perhaps a renowned critic in a black cape who points an accusing finger and sneers, “You’re not really a writer: you’re just a pretentious housewife!”

All new authors have that fear.

The truth is that we become writers by degrees. When you begin writing, you’re a writer.

When you get published, you become a “published author.”

When you’ve been published three or four times by different editors, in the business you’re called a “proven author.” That means that a number of people have recognized your mastery of the craft, and editors at publishing houses don’t have to wonder if you can write publishable fiction: they know that you can.

Eventually, everyone in your neighborhood, and perhaps just about everyone in the world, might think of you first and foremost as an author, to the point where your editors sometimes forget that you have a family and a personal life that you have to nurture, too.

But you don’t get there instantly. First, you start today. First, you sit down at your keyboard and say, “I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer.” Then you begin to spin your tale. . . .

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