Last week, I listened to an interview with Dan Simmons, in which he described an experience he had had in the early part of his writing career. He had been in a writers' workshop, and a fellow participant had received a critique on his manuscript. The teacher of the workshop had asked the participant how long he had been trying to write, and the participant said that he had written 64 novels. The teacher then told him, in front of everyone, "You are not a writer. You will never be a writer."
Listening to this story sent a sudden chill down my spine. The thing that frightened me was the idea of having someone say this to me. I haven't invested as much time and energy into my writing as the participant at the writers' workshop, admittedly, but writing is something that I've been wanting to do ever since I realized that books were actually written be real people. It's been a goal since I was a child, and the idea of someone telling me that I'll never reach that goal is pretty depressing.
Of course, this all depends on what makes a person a writer. The standard response, of course, is that a writer writes. By the same token, a driver drives, and I drive all the time - that doesn't mean I'll tell people I'm a driver when someone asks me about myself. In this era of indie publishing, getting published is no longer a mark of a true writer, as anyone can make their work available to the world and (theoretically) receive payment in return. Many prominent authors still have day jobs while they write, so making a living solely as a writer isn't definitive, either.
More importantly, does someone else have the authority to decide whether or not I'm a writer? By putting my work out in public, criticism is to be expected, and not everyone is going to like what I do - it's the nature of creative work. In the end, however, I have to be the one to make the decision about whether or not to call myself a writer. Right now, I still call myself a writer, and I'll continue to do so until I've decided to stop writing, if that ever happens.
Speaking of writing...progress report for September - I've written or plotted for six of the last seven days. The new project is coming slowly, because I have a good idea of the world, but I'm having a hard time figuring out the characters. It's coming together, slowly but surely. Until next week, my friends!