Are You a Writer Even if You Are Not Published?

Via by Thomas Schilp

Can You Call Yourself a Writer if You Are Not Published?

     I recently had an aspiring writer tell me they did not want to start a blog or sign up on Twitter because they didn’t want anyone to know they were a writer. I was dumbfounded that I don’t even remember if my brows crinkled or my mouth persed. They went on to explain that  if you have a blog and declare yourself a writer then you have to be published. In essence their take on this subject was only published writers can truly say they are a “writer.” My response to this was to just stare and blink. I knew what I wanted to say, but I’m sure it would have come out completely wrong and most likely rude if I said it.

     Sure, all of us aspiring writers would love to be published. To see our words down in ink or e-book. That is the end goal to all of our hours we spend hunched over our computer keyboards typing away. But, I have to disagree that only published writers can call themselves writers. I think most of us would agree we write because its our passion. It is a creative fulfillment, an outlet that allows us to get all those dang stories out of our head on onto the page. It is also a hair pulling out process as we edit and rethink our story structure. It doesn’t matter if you are published, if you spend every extra moment you have writing then you are a writer.

I am curious to know what you think? Do you consider aspiring writers, writers?


29 Comments Add yours

  1. EJ Lavoie says:

    If you write, then you are a writer. If you write but have never published anything, you are an aspiring writer. A writer is someone who writes – often. Writing is not a one-shot attempt. Writing is a compulsion you can’t shake. You keep coming back . . . to write. When you quit coming back, you cease to be a writer. If you can express, in writing, what I just wrote, in ten words or fewer, then you are a promising writer. Go for it. If you don’t get it on the first try, come back again. That’s what writers do. And if you understand why I used the word “fewer” rather than “less”, you may be a very promising writer.

  2. Being a writer refers to the ACT of WRITING… being a published writer refers to the act of BEING PUBLISHED… being unpublished doesn’t mean your not a writer, it just means your not a published writer…

    and who says you have to be a published writer to have a blog??? what???

  3. Merrilee says:

    I find that an odd attitude. If she had said she didn’t consider herself an author, fine. But to say she’s not a writer? A writer writes. Therefore, if you write, you are a writer.

    Odd the little ideas people get about titles and status.

  4. Yes. Anyone who tells you otherwise is dissing the craft. Every writer in the world started in an “unpublished” state. And I would argue that with the incredible transitions in book publishing these days, to be considered “published” can be as simple as having a blog that people comment on.

  5. There was an interesting blog post from Get Me Writing the other day that discussed this very thing:

    Perhaps your aspiring writer friend might be interested in reading that list…?

    I’m willing to be quite generous with the title of “writer.” Anyone who wants to take on the agony and bliss that go with this craft deserves to call him/herself whatever he/she wants.

    You have to consider what “publication” means, too. I’ve always considered myself a writer, and I’ve always fallen into jobs where I ended up with writing duties, and then I eventually started working as a freelance commercial writer before anything else was ever published. I wrote a lot of marketing copy and ghostwrote a few articles for executives before I had my first short story published in a “Cup of Comfort” book. Then I had a lot of construction industry articles published wih my byline in a trade magazine. I still haven’t had any fiction published the traditional way, and now that I’m going indie, when do I consider myself “published?”

    So many layers and titles… I think if you have stories or information to convey via the written word, and you have the capability to translate those stories or that information via the written word in a meaningful or understandable way, you’re a writer.

    The rest is gravy.

  6. John Wiswell says:

    Like the first commenter said, if you write then you’re a writer. There is a certain writer-ness to getting published and paid. Paid in particular, as “writer” can be a profession and you could only be that sort of writer if it was paying your bills. As it is I’ve been published over a dozen times, even made a pro-rate sale this year, and still don’t feel quite like I’m at “writer” yet. I do write, though.

  7. laradunning says:

    Great comments everyone! Glad to see I’m not alone in thinking that your a writer if you write. I also think John makes a good point as well. That writing is a process and that even if you are a published writer, one may feel like there is still room to grow, learn and or improve.

  8. Bill van Oosten (Bamawm) says:

    Hi Lara, My oldest daughter is now 25 and the stories I told her as a child at bed time are still a developing WIP (final edit underway). Five other books of Fantasy and SF are in various stages, two nearing completion. It has certainly been a journey thus far and still a way to go till publication. I savour every bit of it. I am unpublished but I am a writer. Wow! I am proud to say that. It has given me so much.

  9. This is a very thought provoking post.

    Ask your friend if the indigenous populations of countries or a half dozen ancient civilizations, including the Celts, did not exist because their stories have only come to us from a verbal history that was later written down by another. Celts existed for over 700 years and it wasn’t until 100AD that their history and stories were written down into the ancient Gaelic.

    Does a civilization not having a written history, mean they did not exist? 🙂

  10. To start with, I was embarrassed to tell people that i was ‘writing’ in my spare time, because they invariably said something along the lines of, ‘Oh, you’re a writer.’ It didn’t feel right to agree when i’d only just begun, but after a while i realised that they immediately considered me a writer, knowing full well i had (still have) nothing published. If it’s good enough for them……

  11. If you open a blank screen and put forth the committment it takes to learn the craft and create a story/article/book, then yes you’re a writer. Stand proud.

  12. Yes, you write therefore you are a writer – definitely!Your words on the page – that’s the only validation you require.

  13. Alex Fayle says:

    I call myself a writer but I don’t yet consider myself and author. I’m an aspiring-author. A writer is someone writes and gets paid for it or not. To me an author has published (and selling) novels or collections of short stories.

    So I shout from the tree tops that I’m a writer hoping that someone will help me become an author. 😉

  14. lesliesullirose says:

    It’s all about the joy in the creative process. You are still an artist, even if your watercolors aren’t hanging in the Smithsonian.

  15. Erin Roberts says:

    The reason why people won’t call themselves a “writer” is because they’re 1) scared and 2) they confuse it with being published. If you write, then you’re a writer. You might be aspiring to be a published author, but don’t be an “aspiring writer.” You could be sabotaging yourself before you begin. We tend to identify ourselves with what we say we are. So, if we’re brave enough to step forward and say, “I am a writer,” then we’ll be more likely to work towards becoming published.

    Also, it’s necessary these days to get your name out there BEFORE you’re published. If an agent is interested in your first book and another writer’s first book, but can’t sign both, they will look to see who has done the most ‘platform building.’ Who has the most widely followed blog? Who has the most followers on Twitter? Who had the foresight to do a Facebook Fan page? You guessed it! The writer who has already done these things is the one who will get the agent. This same platform building will increase the likelihood that they’ll be published because the ‘advertising’ has already begun. People are starting to recognize your name. If they follow you, then they’re more likely to purchase your book, because they like your style of writing.

    Whoa! I went off topic there, sort of. This has been the core of my “writer research” lately, sorry. I finally got the courage to step forward and say, “I AM a writer!” To tell you the truth, that scared me for a few days. 🙂 However, I’ve gotten used to it and I’m happy. I’m a writer and I’m “aspiring” to becoming a published author. I’m working on my platform now, so in saying, “I am a writer,” I have begun to take myself more serious. Our mindset is important to our success.

    Yeah. I’m done sounding like a self-help book. 😉 Good luck with your writing!

    1. laradunning says:

      Erin, you’ve brought up an important step in the aspiring writers journey to becoming published-starting your writer’s platform. Today this is almost just as important as writing, as it is looked upon as part resume and part self promotion. I was reluctant to start my blog and join Twitter, but now that I have done it I wish I had started it long ago. You are so right apprehension could be sabotaging yourself in the end.

  16. If you are serious and commit the time to your craft. If you can’t NOT write. Then you are a writer. Period. 😀

  17. wizard488 says:

    Well, considering I am an aspiring writer– yes… we are writers!

  18. If one who writes thinks that being published makes them a “writer” in the literary sense, this tells me that this person is insecure about their writing ability. He or she may need further training, practice and commitment to the “act” of writing. On the average, good writing needs to be facilitated by studying, reading and WRITING and rewriting, editing, rewriting … It’s never really done until it “feels” complete.

    All to often we are concerned with the outcome instead of the act of creating, which can be slow and frustrating at times. The “true” writer keeps writing no matter what because he or she has a compulsion to create.

    The writer must live with her words. The writer’s ego is not about narcissism. The writer’s ego is about finding strength and resolve in one’s own words and knowing when to make adjustments when needed. Being a writer or artist takes a lot of courage. The author Rollo May has written a number of books on the subject of creativity that are helpful.

    1. laradunning says:

      You made some great points here! Being a writer is a continual process, even the greats re-edited and re-edited their works to make them flow right. It does take a lot of personal courage to be a writer and put yourself out there.

  19. Diana Mair says:

    Great article.

    Wheeled into the operating theatre this Christmas for emergency surgery – questions fired at me – Name? Age? Occupation? It was now or never.
    “A writer”, I said without pause.(Let me be a writer before I die).
    No one laughed. I lived, and now I’m a writer.

    1. laradunning says:

      Diana that is a great story! Sometimes it takes the act of saying it to make it solidfy in your mind and your life. Glad your safe and well.

  20. I believe that Stephen King said it best, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” It doesn’t say if you want to be a writer you have to be published. I write because I love creating things. I love being able to see something in my head, and be able to translate it to paper. Does this make me a writer? Yes. Am I an Author? Give me a while, you might be surprised.

  21. I have to agree. You don’t have to be published to be a writer. But I think to consider yourself an author then you’ll definitely have to be published.

    I forget his name, but someone in the publishing game said that you need to have a blog and start to build a presence three years before the book comes out. If you limit yourself from starting a blog or on twitter because you don’t consider yourself a writer then you’re shooting yourself in the publishing foot.

  22. John Wiswell says:

    I wonder at what point I’d qualify to be a writer. When I wrote for fun as a kid? When I wrote for my middle school paper? When I interned at a newspaper and won a full page to myself? When I got my first e-zine paid sale? My first print zine paid sale? Or do I have to get this novel accepted by a publisher?

    I honestly don’t know.

  23. I would say that anyone who takes the craft seriously, who does not consider themselves a dabbler or hobbiest, is a writer. As soon as you dedicate yourself to being a writer, you are one.

  24. adampb says:

    Writers believe they are writers, published or otherwise. Non-writers see the books on shelves, articles in magazines and equate publication with being a “writer.”
    I see a parallel with a musician learning their craft. A novice would not consider themselves a musician until they have attained a certain level of skill and technical expertise. The same would apply to an athlete.
    We make a distinction between the hobbyist musician/athlete/writer from the professional, even unconsciously. In all creative endeavours, there is the novice stage, but if our dream and aspiration is to make it our life’s goal, then the tag can be applied. Perhaps it is the idea of sustainability: can we sustain our own life by doing the very thing that we love to do.
    We are always learning and adding to our craft as writers; it is the end goal that makes a difference. Perhaps a writer would be happy simply posting to a blog while others seek out the agent and publication. Both are writers in their own way. Different means to different ends.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  25. Helen says:

    I think if you write, and write consistently then you are a writer, whether you are paid, published or not for it.

    I’m an aspiring writer, yes I have had small publications two poems in a magazine called positive words, one story in the Peninsula’s Writing Groups Anothology, one non fiction article in a Spiritual Mag. and several articles in the TGA’s Mag the Magician but non of them paid for. But even without these, I write consistently because I love writing therefore, I write, I am a writier – and so is anyone else who writes ^__^

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