Friday, September 25, 2009

When are you a writer?

A few months back, Nathan Bransford asked the question on his blog: When does one become a writer? It made me think, because in the medical field (my day job) credentials are a big deal. In order to call yourself something, be it doctor, nurse, physical therapist, there are benchmarks and specific criteria you need to achieve in order to demonstrate your proficiency and be able to use the credential. For example, you can’t call yourself a doctor without a doctoral level degree in something and usually some state licensing procedure.

But writing is different. Even if the only thing I’ve ever written is a drunken manifesto in blood on a series of bar napkins, I can call myself a writer. Even if I’ve written nothing, I can call myself a writer. There are no benchmarks, no credentials. (unless you have and MFA) It really doesn’t seem fair to me.

Personally, I’ve only been writing for about a year and, until this week, no one in my family knew I was doing it except my 14 year old daughter, who I wrote for. (I finally fessed up to my husband Wednesday night, after I signed with my agent.) So, the truth is, I was embarrassed to call myself a writer, even though I spent in the ballpark of 20 hours a week doing it. It just felt like I was overstepping, somehow.

But something changed this week. I had several agents read my work and love it. So, to me, getting the stamp of approval from industry professionals is a benchmark of sorts. And, all the sudden, it doesn’t feel presumptuous to call myself a writer. So, guess what! I’m a writer!

Author is a whole other matter. I’m not there yet. Maybe the benchmark for that is getting published?

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I just came over from Absolute Write and love this post. I work in law, equally credential driven, and have trouble calling myself a "writer" when I'm writing (thinking that such a term must be reserved for when I'm published, or others view me as a "writer").

    Congratulations as well on your good news - and Personal Demons sounds terrific.