“Am I a real writer?”
We hear this question all the time. Not often explicitly (although sometimes that way), but it’s there, lingering behind almost any expression of self-doubt.
Have you ever said (or thought) any of the following?
- I like writing, but I’m not a writer.
- I journal, but I’m not a writer.
- I’m not a writer—I have terrible grammar.
- I don’t even read that much, how could I be a writer?
People actually writing books (or selling tons of books!) don’t even feel like they’ve “made it” as writers.
They tell us:
- I’ve never written a book before…
- I don’t have a following…
- I have no idea who will read this…
- I don’t get paid for my writing…
- I still have a day job…
- I’m just writing a book about _______ (my life, my business, my family), I’m not writing a literary masterpiece…
…I’m not a real writer.
And yet, time and time again, the same people write beautiful, true, honest words. The same people’s writing changes lives.
We get it. It feels presumptuous to call yourself a writer.
But before you dismiss the title, entertain these questions:
In the last 24 hours, how many text messages and emails have you sent?
Our guess is it’s more than a few. Have you commented on social media? Tagged a friend? Think of how much writing you’ve done, even just in the last 24 hours. For many of us, the realty is, we’re writing every day. We’re scheduling and LOL’ing, writing comments and reactions, rating restaurants and answering questions.
What is a “real writer,” anyways?
If you believe “real” writers are the people who live in the mountains, craft genius works in the late hours, and achieve literary fame (who are these people, by the way?), we disagree.
If we’re not “real” writers, what are we? Fake ones?
It’s simply not helpful to try to sort out “real” writers from the rest of us. Writers are people who use the power of language—of words on a page—to articulate what’s in their heads and on their hearts. All writers. Real writers.
Our best advice?
Don’t make the label bigger than it is.
You don’t have to be the next Tolstoy to call yourself a writer.
Writing is one part of your life. It’s a helpful, beautiful, therapeutic part of your life, but it’s not all-encompassing. You can be a writer and still hold other parts of your identity.
Don’t ignore the label, either! Your words matter! Claim the title. Calling ourselves writers brings an intentionality to our writing—that writing is something we make space for in our lives.
If it still really bothers you to call yourself a writer, put the word on a shelf for a while. Leave it there, and continue your life. After a month or so, bring it out again and try it on for size: not “real” writer, not “aspiring” writer, but just “writer,” someone who writes.
Give yourself the gift of acknowledging that part of yourself: you’re a writer.
If one thing makes you a writer, it’s the practice of writing. Whether calling yourself a writer brings you discomfort or joy, the fact remains that writing is what writers do—you’ve just made yourself part of the group! You’re a writer.