Friday, January 24, 2014


Calling Yourself a Writer?

Is this you? You’re driven to write. You write every day. You already have a manuscript completed and another started. Yet someone asks you what you do for a living, and you tell them you run a store, work in a doctor’s office, are a teacher, a babysitter, an accountant; work in construction, in a factory, etc. Chances are, you wouldn’t think to tell them you are a writer if you haven’t yet published that book or magazine article, poetry, whatever, that you’ve written.

But you should. Think of yourself as a writer, that is. And call yourself one.

Oh, they might challenge you up front; ask you what you’ve published. Abashed, you might mutter something about “not published yet, but I wrote this book….” They might shake their heads and walk away. You might feel mortified that you even claimed to be a writer.

But as soon as you touched your fingers to the keyboard and started linking sentences, molding characters, situations and chapters; once you set up your fictional or non-fictional work, you became a writer. Because you started creating.

I used to design costumes for a light opera company in Fairbanks. It was all volunteer work and I did two shows a year. I drew up designs, chose the fabric, sewed the costumes, even created hats, shoes and sometimes designed wigs. If I couldn’t find a pattern, then I made my own. I worked on stage with lighting crews; I supervised a team of seamstresses to assist me on the bigger-cast productions. It was all my responsibility once I agreed to take on a show. Did that make me a costume designer even though I never got a cent for my effort?

Oh, heck yes, it did. Maybe I couldn’t slap it on a resume per se, but I was no less a costume designer than someone else who got paid for the job. And when someone asked me what I did for a living, I’d reply that I worked as a costume designer when I wasn’t in my office, doing the other boring junk.

Those of us who toil in words, who agonize over our characters and create worlds for them to live in, are writers though we may not yet have found our agent or our publisher. We know they’re out in the world just waiting for what we’ve accomplished. They know the next great book is only a submission away. The twain simply has to meet. But in the meantime, we are writers.

You put your blood and sweat, often your tears, into your writing once you begin creating. Those characters you pen are your best friends, your family, perhaps your enemies. You give them life and you send them on their way when it’s time to query or submit. You hope for the best. And when they succeed; when that one agent or publisher looking for them makes the connection to you, then you throw up your fists in victory and you scream, “I AM A WRITER!”

But, my friend, you already were one of those.

I have a few family members who think my writing is a “cute little hobby” even though I’m published. It isn’t cute nor is it a hobby. I have one family member who pooh-poohed my career choice, jeering that I’d never be another Stephen King. Well, I’d hope not! He and I look nothing alike.  To those nay-sayers, I merely smile and go about the business of writing. Trying to convince them would have been a pointless exercise in futility. Let them think what they want; I’ll continue to write, write, write. And publish, publish, publish.

And so should you. So should we all, we whose life force drives us to imagine, write it all down and then imagine some more. Writers don’t write on a whim . . . they write because they have to. Need to. Because it’s all inside them bottled up, and it has to spill out. Otherwise they’ll explode.

So, are you going to call yourself a writer? You bet you are. Because what else could you possibly be?

Char Chaffin is a member of AKWRA and CNYRW, a displaced Alaskan currently splitting her time between Fairbanks, and Upstate New York. She has two books and an anthology published with Soul Mate Publishing and is also an Acquisitions Editor for Soul Mate. She has just completed her third novel and has begun her fourth. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s plotting.

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Anonymous said...

Char, well said! It has taken me a long time to be able to say, I'm a writer, without stumbling or blushing. Thanks you.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

I have this challenge too, still sometimes blush when I tell people about my writing. But you're right, Char. We are writers. And we should be proud of it. :-)