How to own calling yourself a writer

calling-yourself-a-writer

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Do you have trouble calling yourself a writer? You’re not alone.

Like all aspiring writers or unpublished authors, I’ve struggled with calling myself a writer, and even more so, an author.

I’m not sure why this titular conundrum is such a struggle. Is it because it doesn’t sound like a ‘career’? Is it because for most writers and authors it’s not their main income source (and probably won’t ever be)? Or is it simply another form of imposter syndrome?

Even though I tend to go by the theory that you’re a writer before you’re published, and an author when you’re published, it isn’t really that black and white.

After all, what constitutes ‘being published’? If you indie publish are you considered an author? If you’re published in an anthology are you an author? The waters become muddy.

What is true, is that if you write, you’re a writer.

So, if that’s the case. Why is it so hard for us to call ourselves a writer?

I asked this on my Facebook Page recently and the response was overwhelming. Published authors, even those published multiple times, still had difficultly calling themselves an author! Many also stated that it took them quite a while to get used to calling themselves a writer.

The comment that ring true for me though, was this one from debut author Lauren Chater (The Lace Weaver) who said,

Writing is a lifetime pursuit. Authorship can be a casual gig.

That makes so much sense!

So, how do you get to the point of owning calling yourself a writer at the very least? Here’s what I think.

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Just start

When someone asks what you do, the default is to go for your main occupation or qualification. Instead, start with stating that you’re a writer. You will then be guaranteed one of these questions: ‘Have you written anything I would have read?’ or ‘What’s your book called?’ or ‘What have you published?’

Here are some suggested responses:

No, I haven’t had anything published yet, I’m still working on my first novel.

My first novel is out on submission to publishers/agents, so it’s a bit of a waiting game. I’m working on my next book at the moment actually. 

It’s still in the editing phase. Lots of work! 

The key is to be honest, but confident. Don’t brush it off with embarrassment or let that imposter monster take over. Tell them what you write, where you’re at with it, and how much you’re enjoying it.

Just be warned, if the person then says to you, ‘Oh I’d like to write a book one day,’ – run a mile!

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Get a website and/or social media presence

It’s no secret that authors these days need to be online. The author platform is an important marketing tool for all types of writers and authors, and the earlier you get onto it, the better.

The other thing I’ve found with getting online is that you begin to feel at ease calling yourself a writer. You’ll connect with other ‘aspiring authors’ and realise we’re all in the same boat. We’re all writers who love writing, and who are serious about their craft. Some will go on to secure publishing deals, some will indie-publish, but all in all, we just have a love of story.

The online writing community here in Australia is an eclectic mix of published, emerging and aspiring authors who are supportive, fun, and most of all love sharing their writing journey. So get online! (PS Shameless plug, if you need a website, I can help).

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Do the work

Don’t be that person who says ‘I’d like to write a book one day.‘ Plenty of people say it, even more people think it, but not very many people actually sit down and do it. Why? Because it’s bloody hard! No, it’s not digging in the coal mines, or performing heart surgery, but it’s still not easy.

I have to admit, when I first began writing seriously I did think it was going to be easy. Yes, I knew it was going to be time-consuming and take a while, but I honestly didn’t think it would be as hard as it is. And that’s the difference between wanna-be writers, and real writers – the work.

I’ve completed three manuscripts. One right up to submission standard. It was hard. There were horrible lows, and satisfying highs, but I did it. And even if none of my work is ever published, I’ve earned calling myself a writer.

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What happens when you own it?

This year I’ve made a promise to put myself out there, to be curious. And it also ties in well with committing to calling myself a writer.

I’m committing to entering writing competitions, taking advantage of opportunities, attending author talks, and hopefully attending a few literary festivals. All in the name of putting myself out there as a writer.

So far this year, and it’s only March, I’ve:

  • Pitched my book to a publisher who has asked to see the manuscript.
  • Attended an author talk and ended up having a coffee one on one with the author

Why? Because I put myself out there as series about my work – as a writer.

It’s amazing what can happen when you do!

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Calling yourself a writer, or an author comes down to confidence. If you’re letting impostor syndrome or self-doubt get on top of you, it will be to feel uncomfortable calling yourself an writer. It’s practice, confidence and just putting yourself out there. I’m also huge believer in the ‘fake it till you make it mentality’. Not that calling yourself a writer is faking it, it’s real. But, if it helps to have that positive thinking attitude then go with it.

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End note:
Even though I am calling myself writer, and sometimes even an author, it still feels weird. Yes, I still feel like I’m faking it. And I suppose it will until I’m published – and maybe even beyond. We’ve been conditioned that success required validation. That’s just the way it is. So even though I’m calling myself a writer, I do cringe inside, especially around those I know – either close friends/family or acquaintances. That’s just the way it is. So don’t worry if you still feel this way, but don’t let it stop you either.