When do you get to refer to yourself as a writer?

To gain your voice, you must forget about having it heard.

– Allen Ginsberg

Writing is an amazing thing. It is always easy to take it for granted since both writing and speaking are essentially the currency of modern communication. However, creative writing, strictly communicative writing, writing that tells us what is happening out in the world, are all incredible modes of interacting with each other. And many of us engage in many forms of writing every day. There are so many types of writing: the traditionally creative modes — a poem, a song, a novel, the more informal — i.e. blog posts, tweets, Facebook statuses, text messages, emails and there are the necessary — letters, memos, reports, announcements. In todays world, there are an infinite number of forms of writing that we all participate in for work, for school, and for sport. Does that mean we all consider ourselves writers? Many of us (bloggers for example), might refer to ourselves as aspiring writers. But when do we drop the aspiring, and just savor the ability to say confidently — I. am. a. writer. ?

When I was about ten, I wrote my first long and involved letter. It was addressed to none other than my mom and dad. It made my mom cry. I vaguely remember these letters I used to write, ones that were meant to encourage and inspire my friends and relatives. I was never sure if anyone had ever pointed out their unique talents, the things they did to make others feel special, and what made them special themselves — so I figured why not me, why shouldn’t I be the one to write about these traits in the people I love and make certain they knew what made them sparkle. I still practice letter writing today, I love it. Cards are my favorite. I get so excited to write notes and letters to people who mean a lot to me and these letters are crafted with care. These letters were and still are a really special sort of narrative, they are creative, they are expressive, shouldn’t they count as writing? Do these letters make me a writer?

In highschool, I dated a boy who occasionally wrote songs. He never performed or published them, he just wrote them because they gave him a chance to share a piece of his heart and get an issue off his chest. These little literary fragments of soul didn’t really reach any audiences other than me and no one would have guessed he wrote them. Did they make him a writer? He probably wouldn’t have said he was a writer.

We look at reporters and published poets and we label them writers, but were they writers when they aspired to be writers? Were they writers when they wrote brilliant fifth grade essays about Greek politics, or when they penned their first shitty sonnet (for some shitty little undergrad workshop held in the basement of a building with no air conditioning)?

Why could’t they be? Why shouldn’t they be?

Are you a writer even if your writing is bad? Are you a writer if you are six and writing stories about fairies going to school in a tree? Can you be a writer because you want to be?

Perhaps that is something you have to decide for yourself,  perhaps for you being a writer means being published, or maybe it means actively pursuing writing opportunities and engaging in writing communities, maybe it means updating your blog once in a blue moon, or writing beautiful letters to your grandmother on floral printed stationary, maybe it means you write twitter haikus, maybe it means you are a reporter for the New York Times, or maybe it just means you keep a journal — a private, leather bound journal, with your creative, desperate, depressed, enthusiastic, vibrant, frustrated and angry thoughts while you pursue your MBA at Harvard.

I don’t think it matters. I think maybe we can drop the aspiring, and just be writers. Whatever that means.




2 comments on “When do you get to refer to yourself as a writer?

    • Perhaps that is what being a writer or artist means to you. I think in a way writing and art can be like a tree falling in the woods, it still fell whether or not someone else saw it, or felt the thud, or heard it. You are still a writer whether anyone else knows you are or not. I think the act of writing makes you a writer, maybe not a professional writer, or a published writer, or even a good writer. But a writer none the less.

      Liked by 1 person

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