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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Are You Published?

It happened to me on Saturday.

I told someone I had never met I was a writer. "Oh, what have you published?" And the inevitable sneer and look down the nose when they find out I haven't yet.

It made me feel like I was an inch big. Because what right do I have to call myself a writer when I haven't published anything?

Well, the answer to that is - every right.

I sit down at the computer and my fingers move across the keyboard, my hand moves across the journal, palm cramped around the pen, I live through the lives of my characters, crying and laughing with them. All of these things comprise the act of writing, the physical and emotional act of writing. Every day I do this. Every time I commit words to the page I earn the right to call myself a writer.

The 500-page manuscript in my agent's office, filled with the blood, sweat and tears of six years of work, gives me the right to call myself a writer. The stacks of research books and pages of notes and 200 pages of rough and jumbled words for my new book give me the right to call myself a writer. But most of all, I give myself the right.

It is not for anyone else to bestow that title on me; not for an editor or an agent or the New York Times Book Review. Just me. I am the only person in the world who has the right to say I am a writer.

Remember that the next time someone asks you if you're published. It doesn't matter if you are or aren't. If you have put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, seen the world through your character's eyes - you are a writer.


Ginger Calem said...


Too true!! I have had the same question after telling someone I'm a writer and it does feel awkward but I make myself tell people, to keep me honest and to remind myself that I, too, am a writer, albeit a "pre-published" one. *s* I have been asked, 'Where can I find your books?', to which I reply that I'm not in the book stores YET, but I'll tell them know as soon as I am.

The whole concept of publication validating ourselves as writers is an interesting one. Take your 500-page MS with your agent. It's on her desk and you are writing another book. It's not sold...(yet)...but in the mean time, you're still writing. Does that mean that the moment it sells, you are all of a sudden a 'writer'? That's so silly. Like, one morning you wake up and you're not a writer but your agent calls at lunch time and tells you your book has sold and now all of a sudden you're a writer, right then over at BLT?

This makes no sense. We're all writers because we write. Period.


Stephanie said...

You've expressed this so well, and you're completely right. Thanks for the insight!