I had this discussion with a woman today who isn’t a writer and never wants to be one. She asked if someone wasn’t published commercially, or getting paid to write, could they actually call themselves “a Writer?” When my jaw came up off the floor, I resisted the impulse to hit her because I thought educating her might be the better way to go – plus, I didn’t feel like spending the afternoon in jail. To her ridiculous question, I asked one of my own: “Why is getting paid your benchmark for calling a person a writer?” She just stared at me. I could see the rusty cogs twirling in her head as she tried to formulate an answer. When she just shrugged, I knew victory was mine.
I gave her several examples to back up my assertion that getting paid for something isn’t the end all be all of defining what a person does in life. Example number 1: Actors. I think the statistic is something like 1 in 5000 people who put the profession ACTOR on their taxes, actually makes any or enough money to support themselves. But they are still actors. They train, educate themselves about their craft, go on job interviews ( called Auditions), do preparatory work on their bodies like keep in shape, and on their faces to keep looking good. They may not be getting the salary George Clooney is getting for their acting work – or any money at all for it – but they still define themselves a actors.
Example number 2: Artists – the painting and drawing kind. I can give all the same reasoning as in the above paragraph, and these individuals still call themselves artists.
Now, to writers, I told her. By now she was rolling her eyes and I could see she had regrets about ever asking me the question. I have been writing for almost 45 years. Of those 45 years, I can truly say I have never been able to support myself financially with my chosen profession. I have had a lot – A LOT – of stuff published. Some paid for, most not. The fact that I could not live on what I did make writing has not for one scintilla of a second ever prevented me from calling myself a writer.
I write. Every day.
It’s that simple.
I write this blog. I write romantic fiction. I write murder mysteries.
If I never, ever get a publishing contract, I will still write.
I write, therefore I AM a writer.
I don’t think she’ll be asking me that question again anytime soon.