For a long while, I’ve secretly gone back and forth with myself about whether or not I can call myself a writer. You’ll notice I used the word “secretly”—that is because the idea of calling oneself a writer has always seemed somewhat pretentious to me. I imagine referring to myself as a writer out loud and receiving the same doubtful raising of the eyebrows and pursing of the lips that I once gave people when they told me that their favorite novel was The Great Gatsby. “No it isn’t,” I’d think, being my own worst pretentious enemy.
Being a writer probably means something different to everyone. Maybe it’s when you get something published for the first time. Personally, I think you can call yourself a writer much sooner than that. Maybe it’s when you decide to study writing in college, after changing your major from advertising (because it seemed like something that would actually make you money) to English (because you loved words too much to abandon them for the increased chance of making a decent living). Perhaps it’s when people start to hate you because you correct them when they say things like “anyways” or “irregardless.” Something is “without without regard?” I don’t think so. Or maybe it’s when you are in fourth grade and you’ve cleverly disguised your arch nemesis as the evil witch in a story you wrote that was THREE WHOLE PAGES LONG. Is that revealingly specific?
I think for me, it was all of those moments combined with the desire to turn my every observation and experience into a story, whether or not I did that or did it well. Discovering the writer in myself was, and continues to be, exciting and terrifying all at the same time. When you realize it, you may find yourself asking but what does it all MEAN?! Nothing extraordinary, really. Just that you see the world in a different way. You see the world as a swirling cyclone of words that sometimes you can make sense of and sometimes you just can’t. Which actually is kind of extraordinary.
What do you think, readers? At what point does a person with a pencil and some paper become a writer? At what point did you feel entitled to call yourself one?
Aundraya Ruse recently moved to the Austin area after graduating with a B.A. in English (creative writing focus) from Texas Tech University. Catch her on Twitter here.
12 Comments to “When Is a Writer a Writer?”
- Today we welcome our new writing coach/consultant, Sarah McColl (@sarahmccoll): https://t.co/vSzHAkeVHw
- Also from Drew, "You'll Fete Me When I'm Gone," a thoughtful piece about literary posterity, over at @ElectricLit: https://t.co/sYnf9oWgoK
- "While I appreciate that [an LGBTQ] section exists, I can't help feeling that my book has been ghettoized somehow."