Let me make one thing clear:
If you write, you are a writer.
You don’t have to be published.
You don’t have to be paid.
You can write anything, anywhere.
I believe that completely. But it’s only in the last few years that I started to feel comfortable calling myself a writer. Really, the thing that changed was the publication of Beautiful. So why, if I believe all of the above, was I uncomfortable calling myself a writer before I’d published a book?
I think the reason my have something to do with how other people respond. Usually the first question that someone asks when you say you’re a writer, is “What do you write?” (or “What have you written?”)
I could have answered that before I published my book. I could have pointed to short fiction and articles in various publications, as well as the novels and novel fragments sitting on my computer while I tried to figure out what to do with them. But I didn’t feel comfortable answering that question until I was able to point to a book (or a link to a book) and say “that.”
My standards for myself have always been different from what I expect of other people. I’m harder on myself, and I demand more of myself. I think that’s probably fairly common. So while my criteria for other people is “you have to write to be a writer,” my criteria for myself was “you have to write and publish a novel to call yourself a writer.” Is it fair? Perhaps not. Is it hypocrical? Maybe. But it’s what made me comfortable.
Once I managed to call myself a writer though, I was surprised to find another mountain behind it. I’m still struggling to call myself a “published writer.”
Yes, I have a book out. It’s available to purchase. I’ve held a physical copy in my hands. The ebook is on amazon. But there are still a lot of prejudices about self publishing vs. traditional publishing. There’s also a lot of incorrect information. Note: I’ve addressed some of this in the past here. I see traditional publishing and self publishing as different means, to the same end- a published book.
But in spite of that, the words “published author” have a glamorous connotation. I picture book tours, hotels, signings and release parties. I think TV and film rights. In other words, I picture the complete opposite of my daily life! So I’m still trying to reconcile the difference in my head between being a “published author,” and the glamorous, high flying image, that I think depicts very few real-life authors, whether they’re self published or traditionally published.
As of right now, I’m calling myself a “published author” even though it does make me uncomfortable.
Because I know that the image that I have of the glitzy, beguiling author is completely fictional.
Because I know that self publishing is just as valid as traditional publishing.
Because I probably shouldn’t have waited as long as I did to call myself a “writer,” and I don’t want to make the same mistake with “published author.”