I’ve read in more than one place the value of calling yourself “a writer” if you write. I admit, if feels weird, but it makes sense. It’s what I do. I may have called myself an “aspiring writer” at one time, but really, I don’t aspire to do it. I stick my butt in a chair every day and write. Whether it is for the blog, a novel, or an article for a magazine, I am writing.
Ergo, I am a writer.
That’s okay by me.
But, I do not feel comfortable stating that I am an author.
It’s not that I am not, technically. After all, an author is defined as the creator of work. I am the author of this blog. I have authored a column for a magazine. I’ve authored plans to keep a toddler occupied when I’m attending to other things.
Despite this, when I read other writers talking about the importance of calling yourself an author, regardless of your status as a published writer, I squirm a bit.
Being an author as defined doesn’t require a certain level of success, but it does have that connotation. If someone came to me and said they were an author, I would expect a list of works, or at least one, that I could hop online and buy. If they followed up with, “oh, I haven’t published anything”, the title of author won’t attach to that person in my mind.
I know that some disagree with this kind of thinking, and it’s not meant to be negative. I just think if everyone runs around calling themselves an author because they write it dilutes the meaning of the word.
Someone can love buildings things, but that doesn’t make them a carpenter. If I commission someone to make me a table, I’m not hiring someone who likes to hammer a few planks together, no matter how often he may do so. I want someone with a proven record. If every hobbyist with a rasp and miter saw went around calling themselves a carpenter, the term would lose its distinction.
So when will I feel good about calling myself an author? If I have a book that is published traditionally, I may feel that I’ve been through enough to say so. If I publish through one of the other methods available, I admit, I’m not sure when I’ll be okay with referring to myself as an author. After I sell 10 books? 100? 1000? I really don’t know.
Right now, I’m a writer. That means something. It means I am someone who is doing what they love (something I encourage, no matter your skillset). But I want to have some sort of outwardly measurable success with writing before I claim the title of author.
I want the title to mean something to others, not just me.
Is this contradictory to my previous, do what you love no matter what advice? Not at all.
I sing in my house, car, and occasionally in public places because it makes me happy. Should I start calling myself a singer? If I did, would anyone take me seriously? Probably not. What’s more likely to occur is a lot of rolling of the eyes and snickering.
I guess that is what it comes down to. If everyone who writes starts referring to themselves as authors, who will take any of us seriously?
[Edited to add: This post is in no way meant to tell anyone when it is right for them to say they are an author. It is an individual decision that you all have a right to make. This is merely a post borne out of frustration over the implication that not calling yourself an author is negative thinking, or setting yourself up for failure. We all have our reasons for everything. This is merely mine.]