“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit”.
-Will Durant summarizing Aristotle’s philosophy in ”The Story of Philosophy” (1926).
It’s funny how sometimes an idea or concept starts bouncing around inside your head, and then within a few days (or less) someone else mentions the very same idea or concept. You come across a recent blog or a friend recommends an author, or the great concept you had for a story ends up being a new TV show, just announced. It’s synchronicity and it calls to mind the idea of the Collective Unconscious. But that isn’t what I intended to blog about.
What I meant to blog about was the idea of calling oneself a “writer” and whether there is some line one must cross before that can be done. And then the good John Scalzi goes and blogs about that very thing. So funny, this synchronicity thing.
I won’t get into what makes a “good” writer, or even a professional writer, as John does. He covers it quite well. But I want to address the point that people seem to have some kind of blockage around the phrase “I am a writer.” I’m going to over-simplify this, for the sake of making a simple point:
If you run with regularity (on purpose), you can call yourself a runner.
If you read with some regularity, you can call yourself a reader.
If you know how to knit, and you knit with some kind of regularity, by gum, you can call yourself a knitter.
If you sing with some regularity, you can call yourself a singer.
If you write, on purpose, with some regularity, well dammit you can call yourself a writer.
It does not matter one little bit whether or not you get paid to do it. That would be where the qualifiers come in such as “professional writer” or “best-selling author”. Go ahead and identify yourself as a writer, if that is one of the things you feel describes you. Just because you call yourself a writer doesn’t preclude you describing yourself as anything else, any more than describing yourself as a mother precludes you from also describing yourself as a daughter or a sister or a runner or a reader. It’s just a descriptor, and there (so far) isn’t a technical degree required.
Now, this doesn’t help you much the next time someone asks the follow-up question “You’re a writer? Have you sold anything?” We’ll touch on the “need to publish” ideal in a separate post.