What makes you a writer?

Sometimes it’s hard work being a writer. Often, it’s easier not to define yourself as one.

When people ask about your life, you don’t mention your writing. There are no knowing looks when you define yourself as a writer, no awkward questions to answer about how successful you are.

In the end, though, you stop seeing yourself as a writer. It’s just something you do, not part of who you are. You stop waking up early so you can write. You wait until the mood takes you – and you’re surprised by how often it doesn’t.

Photographer's eye view

At this stage, you probably stop being a writer, and take up knitting or photography when the story of your life as a writer is only half-told.

But lately, I’ve been feeling the pull of the novel I’m working on. I feel like a writer again. Now I can’t wait for some free time when I can sit uninterrupted at my computer screen.

Even though the novel I’ve been shopping around has just been turned down again, by what I swore would be the last place I would submit it to, I find I can’t dampen that writer’s spirit.

What makes a writer, (apart from talent of course) is determination.

I don’t think that everyone has a novel in them, but if you do, you become a writer not from the moment you get your book published, but at the moment that you know you won’t give up until you’ve sold it or every publisher has turned it down.

And maybe not even then.



  1. I concur in large part with this entry. Determination is key. Working with the rising tide of creativity rather than against–allowing yourself opportunity to write, so to speak.

    But publication is an unintended consequence, rather than an end itself. Ultimately the process matters more than the finished form. My all time favorite story is the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Silitoe for exactly that reason. In classic terms, the protagonist has the race won, yet elects for an altogether different sort of victory. And he finds great satisfaction in his decision.

    If you have written a novel that would pay for, and it says what you meant to say, then you’ve succeeded. To me, that’s a writer.

    All the rest is just a question of other people catching on to what the writer already knows about the story.

  2. I know what you mean, Sam. But the problem is that being published, despite the fact that it’s about the market rather than what’s actually any good, is the acid test for most of us. Especially those people who give the knowing looks.

    I’d be a lot happier if I didn’t worry about publication, but that’s how I am.

  3. Understood. And I’m not knocking the fabulous prizes and infamy of one’s creation captured in print. I can read how badly you want this for your novel.

    All I wonder is, could the result you want happen when it becomes the logical byproduct of your efforts, rather than a beacon in likeitself?

    Just thinking out loud, really…it’s a question I wrestled many times myself.

    I enjoy entries like this.

  4. I badly wanted to be published, too, but I have absolutely no doubt that I would have kept writing even if publication never came. It’s just what I do. It seems as if you’re made the same way.

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