When is a Writer Not a Writer?

I have been pondering this question on and off for some time now and recently it has been pushed to the forefront of my mind, thanks to two friends of mine who have started Facebook “writer” pages. Both are in the RNA’s  New Writers’ Scheme, as am I, and both have had positive feedback from the readings of their first novel. However, they are not yet published (although I’m sure they will be!) and apart from the fact that they have already started submitting to publishers and agents they are in a pretty similar position to me.

I have been afraid to call myself a writer after reading one professional author’s opinion on the subject. She was quite clear that unless a person makes their living from writing they should never have the audacity to call themselves a writer. So forceful was she in her views that I was quite chastened and scurried back under my rock, deciding that I wouldn’t call myself a writer until I had a proper contract and at least ten books published, and possibly a couple of film adaptations of my work under my belt.

However, when I voiced this doubt, one of my friends explained that she was advised to have a Facebook page as part of her “media presence” and therefore sees it as an essential part of the submission process. Getting your name “out there” is essential, and a Facebook page that can be read by all and sundry is increasingly seen as part and parcel of a writing career.

But still, a writer? Would I really dare to call myself that?

I have to admit, the idea of a Facebook page appeals. I have my ordinary Facebook account, of course, and I do love it. Sometimes, though, I do feel that I post an awful lot of writing and book-related stuff – links to blogs, books for sale, launch party posts, RNA pictures etc that a lot of my “normal” (hah!) friends have very little, if any, interest in. I am toying with the idea of using a separate page for all my book stuff and my writing stuff so that I can just have the usual general chat on my main account.

It could work, but still, a writer?

I think what’s made me come round a little is my own progress with my writing. Book One has been sent out to five beta-readers and this means that, including the NWS reader, a total of SIX people will have read my book! Six people! That is seriously scary stuff and I am amazed that I have made such a giant leap forward. I sent it out, heaved a sigh of relief and decided to put it to the back of my mind. I duly got back to Book Two and forgot all about my firstborn baby, until one afternoon this week as I sat at my desk at work, absently folding a pile of prescriptions, it suddenly occurred to me that I had written a sex scene and five people would be reading it! Gulp. It’s not exactly erotica and I’m sure they’re grown-up enough to cope but even so…That brought me out in a cold sweat, I can tell you.

But it’s amazing what a change the act of sending my book “out there” has brought about in my thinking. Now I’m really beginning to feel like a proper writer, with real readers and everything. I am no longer saying “if this book gets published”, I am saying “when this book gets published”, and I am researching all the different methods of publication with my serious hat on. (It’s purple with a huge feather, very impressive!)

I wake up early, I write every morning before work (except Mondays because I’m out of the house for half-past seven in the morning on Mondays and I’m just not that good) and I plot and plan and dream all through the day – I do hope my boss never reads this. I am constantly making notes of ideas that occur to me, characters that pop up, titles and new novel ideas. I scour old copies of  Writing Magazine  and Writers’ Forum for advice and information, I read how-to books, I search through blog posts reading other writers’ stories and how they got published. Writing occupies my mind almost constantly and feels more real to me than my “real” job, even though that’s the one that pays the bills.

So, does that make me a writer? Or is it wrong of me to call myself that until I’m actually making a living from writing? What if I never manage to make a living from it but just sell a few copies here and there while continuing my day job and writing in my spare time? Would I be a writer then?

How do you define a writer? And do you think a separate Facebook page is a good idea? Would love to hear from you!

Have a great week xx

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