When someone asks me to talk about myself, I usually give the generic, “I’m a senior at APU, majoring in English with a focus on writing,” etc. Every now and then I spice it up and add I am studying to be a professor or something to that effect. Recently though, my friend was reading through a short biography I wrote for my school’s literary journal. She paused for a moment, looked at me and said, “Dude! You didn’t even call yourself a writer!” She was right.
In all actuality, I didn’t consider myself a writer up to that point. My work had been published in a couple different journals, I have writer friends, I’ve attended poetry readings, written reviews, and done all of those sorts of “writer-y” things, but identifying myself as a writer seemed presumptuous somehow. I’m sure I’m not the only English student who feels this way.
The truth is, I had been conditioned to think that if no one paid me for my work, my writing was little more than a hobby. But when my friend pointed out the absence in my biography, I had to rethink what the title meant. Defined plainly, a writer is someone who writes, but that seems an oversimplification. If a writer is only someone who writes, then the average Joe jotting down thoughts in his journal could be lumped into the same category as Dickinson or Faulkner. We know, though, that these writers are revered for their unparalleled skill and timeless works.
However, even these two writers differed in success during their lifetimes. Faulkner enjoyed recognition as a writer while he was alive, but Dickinson was a shut in and did not gain writing notoriety until after she passed. Still, no one can deny her the title. This begs the question; when are you a writer? Is it after publishing a book? After being featured in the New Yorker? Sooner? The first time you let someone read your work or after taking your first college writing course above the freshman level?
I still don’t know the answer to the question. What I do know is that if no one ever reads another of my short stories or poems again, if I never get a dime for my work, I will still write. Perhaps this profound need to put pen to paper or fingertips to keys is what truly defines a writer.
When did you first call yourself a writer? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Sigma Tau Delta Writing Opportunities
- Midwestern Region Blog Contest
submissions accepted through September 15, 2015
- High Plains Region Conference Call for Papers
submissions accepted through September 18, 2015
open to Sigma Tau Delta members from all regions
- Sigma Tau Delta 2016 Convention Call for Papers
submissions accepted September 28 – October 26, 2015