Thought of the Week: When Can I Call Myself a Writer?

There’s a man named Joe doing work in our new house today. He doing some stuff like sanding the floors and fixing the walls and stuff; things I don’t do. Now see, I know what he does for a living because he’s doing it right now. But what about when he asks me?

“So what do you do?” asks Joe.

“I…um…I…” says I.

“I see you have a lot of computer stuff. Are you into computers?”

“Yes, yes that’s it. I’m a computer technician.”

“What are you writing?”

“Oh, this? Nothing really, just a novel.”

“Is it published?”

Well, I digress here. Joe didn’t actually ask me if it’s published – it wouldn’t make much sense, given that I’m still writing it (duh). But he could have.

Anyway, the key point here is, when someone asks what I do, what do I tell them? Am I a computer technician? I suppose I am. It’s what I’ve been doing for over ten years; you could say it’s my career.

But then what’s all this business with putting together strings of words? Is that just for fun?

Well, not really: in only a couple of weeks, something I wrote will actually be purchasable from, what did they say? Thirty-eight thousand online book retailers? That’s some crazy-ass shit. Of course, being purchasable is not the same as being purchased, I’m well aware. But hey – the potential’s there.

Does that make me a writer, instead? Was I a writer when I was writing for fun? What about when I started to get the thought that I could actually finish a novel and possibly make it available for other people? Will I be a writer when I’ve sold my first copy? It’s pretty likely that the first few dozen copies are going to go to friends and family – people who would’ve bought the book anyway, even if they’re not going to read it. Am I writer when someone posts a scathing review?

Or am I only a writer when I make my monthly rent based solely on book sales? When I can actually call it a living? When the federal government starts getting interested in the pennies I’m raking in with every copy sold?

I know it’s a tired old question, but it throws me when someone asks me what I do. I write. I’ve written for a long time, longer than anything else I’ve ever done in my life (that’s not exaggeration). But am I really a writer?


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