Can I call myself a writer?

This question crossed my mind recently when a friend asked me what I had been doing since we saw each other last. I hesitated a minute before I said well, I finished my first book and I am working on my second. I’ve learned when those words leave my mouth I am going to get the reaction of surprise accompanied by the string of questions “You what? You wrote a book? I didn’t know you were a writer. Is it published? When can I read it? Will you autograph my copy? Am I in it?” Usually these questions come without the person taking a breath or giving you a chance to answer. If I don’t have to time for a thirty minute explanation I usually skip sharing the information of writing a book and just say nothing.

I have completed my first manuscript and I am working on my second. My third story idea is running circles around all the daily thoughts in my head like what’s for dinner, did I put the dog’s back in, my report is due today at work. No matter how hard to try to keep focused on daily activities my characters keeping talking to me trying to tell me what to put down on paper. So does this mean I can call myself a writer? I haven’t published anything. I haven’t submitted anything to a contest, an agent or a publisher. Do all the classes and workshops I have attended give me the privilege of calling myself a writer or when I first put a letter and word down on a piece of paper did that give me the right? If that’s the case then everyone I know can say they are a writer.

When I’m in the safety of my own office I feel secure in referring to myself as a writer. The words flow onto the paper without effort. I can read them back and make sense of what I have written. At this point I would be willing to bet any agent would be proud to represent me and any publisher would be more than happy to publish my work. It’s a given. Take me out of this environment and put me in, for instance, a critique group and the story changes. The other people are gracious and kind and most of the changes they suggest are good ones. I take the ones I like and leave the rest even though they haunt me when I go back over the part of my story. Should I change it? Should I leave it alone? What if they were right? We are all writers. Do I know more than they do or have they taken more classes and workshops than me? Do they own more reference books than me and have they read them all? There is always that if.

I guess until I have published my first book there will always be a question whether I can say I’m a writer and I’ll hesitate every time someone asks me what I have been doing lately.

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