The best advice I ever had and followed came years ago from a friend. It was a sentence comprised of four simple words. Call yourself a writer.
Call myself a writer? Really? Am I allowed to do that? Isn’t there some kind of writers’ police that checks for credentials and experience? Aren’t you supposed to make money to be able to call yourself a writer?
I always liked to write – wrote stuff for school, and even had an English Literature teacher tell me that I wrote well. As life moved past my teens though, I didn’t pursue it, unless you count grocery lists and letters to Grandma. The next thing I knew I was married, had kids, and was doing the swimming lessons and hockey mom thing. As my kids got older, I had a renewed desire to write, so I took courses from the Institute for Children’s Literature, joined a writer’s group, and attended some writing conferences.
Taking these steps to becoming a writer seemed logical. But calling myself a writer? Wouldn’t that be a little over the top? I hadn’t written anything that really had been published, other than our local homeschool group newsletter. Okay, and I wrote some homeschool lessons for my kids – but those were just for us. How about customer letters for my husband’s contracting business? No, that wouldn’t count either; I can’t call myself a writer until I wrote something for money. Or, can I?
This advice-giving friend was a writer. A real one, not a pretend one like me. She wrote articles, columns, and books. She’d been writing for years, and even had taken the same writing courses that I had. Hmm, well, maybe there is something to this advice after all. Doubt continued to whisper in my ear...“What experience do you have? You haven’t made any money yet! How could you be a writer? Don’t be silly; it would be much safer to say that you want to be a writer someday.”
Still, my friend’s words rang in my head. Call yourself a writer. She often emphasized the point that if you felt called to write, there was a reason. Well, okay, I do feel called to write, so maybe she’s right. I decided to give it a try. The words squeaked out when the first opportunity arose. Those around me probably didn’t even hear it. That was okay; I think I needed to hear myself say it more than anyone else did.
The next time I said it, it came out more easily.
“What do you do?” Someone asked.
“I am a writer.” Aha! I said it. In a regular, non-squeaky voice, too.
“So what do you write?”
Okay, wasn’t prepared for that question. I stumbled through the answer, mentioning something about writing for a state homeschool network’s newsletter and curriculum guides. They didn’t need to know that I volunteered and didn’t get paid, right?
From then on, I called myself a writer. The more I said it out loud, the more I became convinced, that yes, I was a writer. And why not, I loved to write. I was in the process of seeking markets for stories and articles, and writing my own booklet for homeschoolers. Indeed, I was fully justified in calling myself a writer.
My husband and kids picked up the ball and ran with it. They called me a writer too. (I didn’t even ask them to.) My sister, a graphic designer for a publishing company, gave her editor my name as a potential writer when it looked like one of their regulars was unavailable. They never called me, but that’s okay. I was still a writer.
The advice from this friend will be cherished always. Those words have inspired and encouraged me greatly over the years. I am glad I had the courage and motivation to follow through and take the savvy words to heart.
Once I started calling myself a writer, I never looked back. It matters not that I haven’t made the best seller list yet, nor does it matter that I haven’t made enough to retire on. What matters is that I believe I am a writer. Writing is what I am called to do and I will continue to succeed. I have things to share that no one else can. And so do you. Call yourself a writer.