Why You Need to Suck It Up and Call Yourself a Writer

So here’s a little story.

I’ve been writing since before I could write. Literally, I created a stapled together “book” at the ripe old age of five and handed it to my mom so she could write the words I wanted on each page (because, you know, not being able to read complicates things). Ever since then, I’ve been compulsively writing, wanting to write, or thinking about writing. It’s defined my life ever since I can remember.

And I only started calling myself a writer this year.

I get it. Calling yourself something like a “writer,” a title that can make some people think you’re instantly more mysterious or cool or sophisticated than you actually are, can seem scary. It was scary.

So I avoided the word for about twenty years.

But then I began to dive a bit more into the world of writing and blogging, and began to see that this hesitation was unfounded. In fact, my reluctance to own the title “writer” may have actually held me back from the kind of bold moves that I secretly wanted to take.

So here are four reasons why you, you who’s constantly got your head in the clouds and hands on the keyboard and espresso coursing through your veins, should call yourself a writer.

1. You need to treat your writing like a job

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve learned this year is to treat your writing like a business. If you ever hope to make writing a bigger part of your life (or even quit your day job!) you need to stop fiddling around and realize that becoming a writer is, in many ways, becoming a small business owner. You need a vision, a plan, a product, and a certain amount of know-how to get things off the ground.

What does that all involve?

Work. 

Yep, writing is seriously hard work (obviously, you know this). And calling yourself a writer is owning up to the fact that writing is a lot of work. When I began telling people I was a writer, hearing that title come out of my mouth reinforced the idea that it’s my job. Writer is a job title, and I needed to see my writing not as my hobby but as my job.

If you’re ready to tackle that job and put all your heart and energy into it, if you’re willing to go through all the not-so-fun steps to get there, then you’re treating your writing as a business. You’re doing the work of a writer.

2. Your time goes where your priorities are

In order to do the work of a writer, you need to put in the time. That means shutting the door and shutting off the TV and pounding a few thousand words out of your keyboard. Doing this will always mean saying no to other things. But when you see yourself as a writer, not a hobbyist or an “aspiring writer,” you’ll put the other crap away and make it happen.

What bridges the gap between someday’s dream and today’s reality is whether you choose to spend today putting in the work.

Herein lies the difference between writers and aspiring writers: writers put in the work. They show up, they clock the hours. They know that a dream takes time, but they’re willing to put in that time.

Aspiring writers are waiting for something to happen. They wait for the perfect day or “inspiration” or someone else’s affirmation. But they’re waiting, not working.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with being someone who hopes to write someday but is currently in a circumstance where that’s impossible. Nor is there anything wrong if you like keeping writing as a hobby and are comfortable with the casual, “aspiring writer” approach to the craft.

But a casual, hobbyist approach will very, very rarely lead to a big “break” that will effortlessly make writing a huge part of your life. It just doesn’t work like that. If you want to be a writer “for real,” you need to prioritize it. And seeing yourself as a serious writer, calling yourself a writer, can help shift your perspective and help you prioritize what you’ve chosen to take seriously.

Your words matter, and your thoughts matter. If you expect to be a writer, think of yourself as one. Call yourself one. Be one. If someone wants to interrupt your time because you’re “just writing,” don’t let them! People don’t demand others to stop working at their job whenever it’s convenient. If you’re a writer, then writing is your job. Carve out writing time and then guard it like your life.

3. Thinking you’ll “earn” the title later is a lie

I used to think that I would be a writer if I made it big. You know, like, J.K. Rowling big. Like once everyone read my books and I’d earned a certain amount of awards and everyone else could affirm my writer-ness, then I’d be a writer.

Um…no.

Look, I know I’m not the only artsy type who gets self-conscious about their skills or whether they’re as good as the next person. It happens. But if that’s your tendency, then you’ll never think of yourself as a writer. You’ll never think it because there will always be someone else further down the creative road than you are. 

There will always be someone with more blog readers, more copies sold, more earned per year from their writing. You will always be surrounded by people more successful than you. But you know what?

That says nothing about where you’re at.

Really, it doesn’t. There is no magic criteria you must meet to be called a writer. If your life needs to look like someone else’s before you can be considered an artist of the craft, well, that’s crap. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. You don’t need to wait for someone else to bestow you with that honor.

4. People need to know

Now, I’m not saying you should lie to people. If you spend 60 hours a week as a dentist and then write one poem every five months, people will find it deceptive if you give “writer” as your occupation. Just like I wouldn’t call myself an interior designer because I painted and re-furnished one room in my house this year.

But if writing is the goal of your life and you’re already working hard to make that happen, then people need to know!

When I made my writerly ways known more publicly, people started asking about it. People ask what stories I’m working on or how far I’m getting in my latest book. It’s great accountability when you know that your family, friends, and coworkers will be asking you about your progress.

It also opens doors. When I went to a local newspaper as a writer and asked them to review my book, they agreed, and then offered me a job as a freelance writer. Score! And it makes sense. You’ll find more writing opportunities when people know you’re a writer. You’ll connect with other writers who you may not have even known were fellow writers if you hadn’t introduced yourself as such.

Just a little honesty can work big magic.

 

Right now I’m learning what it really takes to be a writer, and diving into what it means to take my writing seriously. All four of these points I need to continue to cultivate, but seeing myself as a writer is a start.

What are your writing dreams? Do you call yourself a writer? What do you want to do to make them happen?

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

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19 thoughts on “Why You Need to Suck It Up and Call Yourself a Writer

  1. This really was an incredible post! I have been writing since I was a child and have always been extremely passionate about what I write! I just started my blog last year and it has given the chance to write more and share it! I have dreams of writing a book someday, but now I am focused on my blog and trying to get into freelance work! I am so excited to read more of your posts!! I hope if you have the time, you will check out my site. I always aim to encourage and inspire others through the words I share. I hope the rest of your weekend is amazing!

    1. Thanks so much, Alyssa! Congrats on starting the blog, and you totally should write a book! I’d love to check out your site…it’s always great to meet fellow writing lovers ❤

      1. You are more than welcome! I really enjoy meeting new fellow bloggers with a love for writing! I sincerely hope you do like my blog! I definitely hope to write a book someday, I even have an outline ready! I think starting off with my blog and then hopefully doing some freelance will increase my abilities further!

      2. Thank you! I am doing my best and I am SO determined! Writing has helped me so much because it allows me to release negative and stressful times! Do you by chance have any advice for a newbie trying to do freelance work?

      3. So far I’ve only done freelance work for local media sites/people I’ve met in person. I’m not as familiar with online freelancing (i.e., applying to jobs on sites like Freelancer), so my advice would be to get connected with your local papers/magazines and ask if they take submissions. Better yet if you already have an idea for something you think they would print. Otherwise I’m sure you can find some good online resources for using sites like Upwork and Freelancer. If you find anything let me know, since I’m interested in learning about the online method too!

      4. Thank you so much Rae! Honestly I am not only looking for online freelance work, I would be willing to something for local companies, I just have no idea how to approach this. Someone else told me about Upwork but this is the first I heard about Freelancer. I will be sure to keep you updated!!

  2. 🙂 That is some fabulous advice on writing.

    Now, I would not be ashamed of calling myself a writer.

    Hey, it surely looks that you were born to write.

    I would also like to wish you all the best with your blog and keep writing!

  3. I completely agree! Things changed when I began introducing myself as an author instead of whatever I was saying before that. It’s amazing how just changing our language can change so much of our behaviors!

    1. It’s so crazy how that happens! I’m now wondering how my thoughts/language affect my behavior in other areas of life as well. It’s something I’ll have to give some more thought to!

  4. Rae, you are a wonderful writer and I trust that your blog will continue to be a great encouragement to others!

  5. Yes, I’m calling myself a writer, now. It took some courage, but it helped when I came across the phrase “developing writer” from a post written by one of the agents at Steve Laube’s Literary Agency. I used to call myself an “aspiring writer”, but now “aspiring” seems too tentative. “Developing” is what I want to be–and as the agent wrote, all writers, himself included, are developing. I want to dive deeper into writing, and hopefully be able to see more pieces published. (A few years ago a magazine accepted a devotional I wrote.)

    I am taking inexpensive online writing courses, reading writing books, and submitting stories to Chicken Soup.

    Thank you for deciding to follow my blog. I hope you can read something on there that helps you as much as your articles are helping me.

    1. That’s neat to hear about your writing classes and submitting stories! And I agree that “developing” sounds like a more positive way to describe the growing process. And yes! I’m really looking forward to reading your blog. Meeting and connecting with fellow writers is my favorite part of blogging 🙂

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