• 409

Telling the world that you're a writer

I wrote for a good six years before I called myself a writer. If people asked me, I’d tell them that I wrote stories and had written a book once, but would laugh it off as a non-serious hobby. Even though secretly, I always had serious dreams about an eventual writing career.  

Chatting to other writers, it seems like I’m not alone in this. Something about saying ‘I am a writer’ sounds big. Like to be a ‘real’ writer you have to have some sort of qualification – like a publishing deal, or maybe just be better than you think you are.  

This is imposter syndrome at its finest. The truth is that you are a writer if you write. You are a writer if you write short stories for your local writing group, in the same way that you are a writer if you’re an international bestseller.  


If you’re reading this – chances are that you are a writer.  


At some point, we need to own that. And once we do, things start changing. We start to feel more confident about our abilities and more positive about our future careers. We also might start introducing ourselves as writers to our new neighbours, or filling the ‘occupation’ box on a form with ‘writer’ (always an exciting moment). It all starts by simply believing it yourself.   


Owning your ‘writer’ title can start today! Comment below with "I am a writer" - whether this is the first time you've said that, or have been saying it for years. 


0 0 0 0 0 0
Replies (43)
    • I am a writer and have been for almost seven years, just never said it. I have always said that I have written whatever, but not made the claim. It was when my unpublished novel was read by people I didn't know, in the United States and by those in the UK by those who didn't know that I wrote who told me how good they though my work was that I began to really believe. There, I've said it.

      0 0 0 0 0 0
      • 👏 👏 👏

        0 0 0 0 0 0
      • I don't think it's cool to be a writer anymore, if it ever was - it's seen as an old-fashioned occupation in the world of You Tubers, Tik Tokers and social media stars raking in millions from advertising depending on their subscribers and like totals.

        Plus, whenever it comes up in conversation it's like 'Oh I bet you wish you wrote fifty shades of grey -or whatever is the current flavour of the month. Plus, there's the inevitable - "Oh I'm going to write a book one day" - or "listen to what happened to me - this will make a great story, you an write about this if you like - it's really exciting."  999/1000 it won't and it isn't.

        Then there's the passion suckers - the folk (my wife included) who think I'm wasting my time and it would be better spent cleaning the toilet/kitchen - insert chore of choice!! There are a lot of negs out there waiting to rubbish what you do and  think this is perhaps why we don't talk about it. It's weird coz if we'd had a hit song or won a contest then everyone would be interested and supportive, but because what a writer does takes so long to complete and is something the majority of people can't ever contemplate doing (despite what they say) it is sidelined as weird - like UFO's and Werewolves and Jeremy Corbin

        0 0 0 0 0 0
        • Oh Danny, Isn’t it time to clear out the passion suckers? Your work is too important to let others dictate your priorities. Wishing you courage my comrade writer. 

          0 0 0 0 0 0
          • Well said Geoff. 

            0 0 0 0 0 0
            • I don't think it's cool to be a writer anymore, if it ever was - it's seen as an old-fashioned occupation in the world of You Tubers, Tik Tokers and social media stars raking in millions from advertising depending on their subscribers and like totals.

              Plus, whenever it comes up in conversation it's like 'Oh I bet you wish you wrote fifty shades of grey -or whatever is the current flavour of the month. Plus, there's the inevitable - "Oh I'm going to write a book one day" - or "listen to what happened to me - this will make a great story, you an write about this if you like - it's really exciting."  999/1000 it won't and it isn't.

              Then there's the passion suckers - the folk (my wife included) who think I'm wasting my time and it would be better spent cleaning the toilet/kitchen - insert chore of choice!! There are a lot of negs out there waiting to rubbish what you do and  think this is perhaps why we don't talk about it. It's weird coz if we'd had a hit song or won a contest then everyone would be interested and supportive, but because what a writer does takes so long to complete and is something the majority of people can't ever contemplate doing (despite what they say) it is sidelined as weird - like UFO's and Werewolves and Jeremy Corbin

              Those negative voices are pretty powerful. Writing is my way of living and my way of making sense of the world. My daughter told me about a you tuber she follows who had encouraged her followers to read! So my daughter (19) picked up East of Eden on her recommendation. Steinbeck is cool again!!

              0 0 0 0 0 0
            • I’ve been calling myself a fledgling writer for a while, but maybe there’s a little bit of that imposter syndrome in there and it’s time to say I’m a writer. Why is that such a differently-feeling statement to “I write”, or its less confident cousin “I do a little bit of writing”?

              0 0 0 0 0 0
              • I generally only tell people if I want to pick their brains (what that says about me is clearly not nice!) For example nurses, I ask a friend who is a nurse so many questions she might have written the whole book for me! Divers, anyone who was partying in the 60s. All these people have been pinned down and examined and so far all have been wonderful, so helpful and sometimes very funny. Including one who having heard a brief outline said" 'You need an editor" He is right, of course.

                0 0 0 0 0 0
                • I'm a writer and, yes, that's what I tell people if they ask. Despite never having published anything or even getting close to it. 

                  I think I started owning the title a while back partly because I don't 'do' anything else right now and partly because it's the activity I identify with most. I find people are really interested and respectful of my being a writer and most ask lots of questions and give lots of encouragement. I also think I reached a point where I felt that if I never get anything published I wouldn't see it as a failure so I have nothing to hide from people.

                  0 0 0 0 0 0
                  • Hi Sarah and everyone, this is such a great post. I have written seriously now since I guess around 2014, when I started my first book. I'd always dabbled, as you say, with ideas and notes and a few thousand words which didn't go anywhere, so when I started my first online course, I did start telling people. Outside the world of writing no one has a clue how long each process takes, writing, editing, submitting, and fingers crossed, getting published. Mostly if the topic comes up, I say yes, I'm writing book two, three etc and they ask when it's coming out. Some of my friends and work colleagues know about my writing, as well as family but they are surprised when you say whatever is in the shops now was written 3 plus years ago. It's a strange industry to get your head around. I do consider myself a writer, and probably have done since someone else read through my first drafts, before that I didn't think I had the authority to do so. 

                    0 0 0 0 0 0
                    • I’m a writer. I am also a teacher, and this is what I have always named as my occupation, but I have just taken the big step of taking a year leave of absence from teaching next school year  to focus on writing—which is exciting and terrifying! The timing of this forum is perfect. I’ve been having arguments in my mind about what I will call myself over this next year. I guess I’ll call myself a writer!

                      0 0 0 0 0 0
                      • YES Jane. Congratulations on taking that step 👏 

                        0 0 0 0 0 0
                      • One of my neighbours, (after I had described my reaction to an art  installation as a memorial to children with shortened lives due to illness, involving gorgeous blue ceramic butterflies 'flying' upwards, from a garden, then silver butterflies flying higher above the blue ones, that the silver ones seemed to me to be the children who had died and flown away...) said to her sister in explanation, 'She's a writer...'

                        That was the first time anyone had said that to me. I have self published one novel, and about to finish my second, a sequel. Another local book group is having me on Zoom for a feed back and chat about the first one.  I write blogs on my website that no one reads. I do feel like a writer, though I never say 'I'm a writer.' I am retired. You are so right. I need to step up and own it. If I'm not convinced nobody else will be. 

                        0 0 0 0 0 0
                        • I am a writer...there I've said it to myself!


                          0 0 0 0 0 0
                          • I'm a writer. I believe it...I just don't tell others that. It seems a little presumptuous. I've told a few people that "I'm witing novels". I've written three completed manuscripts and have two in process. None of them published. At least, not yet. 

                            I did write a book on family history and sent digital copies to close relatives. One of my cousins self-published it for me on Amazon, so that family members could purchase an actual book. So, in a way, I backed into being an "author". But I won't ever call myself that until I've published my first novel. Then I'll publicly and proudly claim both - writer and author.

                            0 0 0 0 0 0
                            • I am a writer but sometimes, like now, I don't feel like it. I'm in the doldrums and can't get up much enthusiasm. However, just now, a friend who reads my stories and novels, came round for tea and a chat. She's going to Skipton next week and I asked her what she knew about the canal there, wondering if I would like a boating holiday. She immediately said, 'Do you need to know for a book?' It made me feel better!

                              0 0 0 0 0 0
                              • It is strange we so penalise and stress ourselves over calling ourselves, writers. As soon as pen touches paper and thoughts turn into something more corporeal, we are a writer. When we post something online, or in print, we are in law a writer and published too. Yet somehow the long journey we have had to that point, from the early days in school to the moment of inspiration and decision to set it down, is totally forgotten and ignored. We crave peer approval, allow criticism to taint the water on which we sail. Beyond accuracy, surely it is for posterity to be the judge of what we do? So many writers' works are still around for centuries, even millennia after their deaths, are far wider read, and more acclaimed than in their own lives. If we do the very best we can, learn as much as we can, and tell our story being true to ourselves, then everyone should hold their head up high and call themselves a writer. As I said in the webinar, there are far far more people who haven't done what we have started than those who have. If we have a day job, then we are a writer and X, Y or Z. Separating the two is not possible as we are thinking beings and whilst we toil in one thing so the imagination works in another. A writer I am, have always been and always will be. 

                                0 0 0 0 0 0
                                • That’s beautifully thought and written, Erin. Thank you. 

                                  The speed and ‘facile-ness’ of the world around us can sometimes dim thoughts of posterity and craftsmanship. Digital culture probably affects most of us more than we know. During an exchange I had with an editor a couple of years ago, she mentioned one of her fellow editors who lamented that he used to deep dive into a text, and now he jet-skis over the surface. I, for one, feel it’s so important to resist this tendency.

                                  One part of that resistance for me is avoiding consumerist, digital and electronic language for human beings in thought and speech. I don’t think of people who will read my books as a target audience. I feel that the expression ‘reader magnet’ is unfortunate. I even prefer “response” or “critique” or “commentary” to “feedback”. Certainly, some members of this community will disagree, and others will surely have different forms of resistance. But it’s important to not only respect ourselves as writers but also our readers as readers.

                                  0 0 0 0 0 0
                                  • I agree we need to respect both reader and writer. If we respect ourselves and our work, and present it accurately and well for all to see, then we will be respecting the reader's integrity and right to choose. 

                                    Words such as 'critique' 'criticism' and 'feedback' are very much a sign of modern times. Management speak. But, as such, they are more often than not wrongly used to direct and bend some poor employee to another person's way of thinking. They should be guiding, training and correcting actual flaws. For a writer, especially of fiction or fantasy, that could be grammar, punctuation and errors in plot sequence or real-time reference points. Those style of words are something I would certainly be cautious of using or believing in the people that use them. The best editors and beta readers I have found, are those that deal with the non-speculative or subjective content but have an understanding of them also. Of course some stories, no matter how well technically executed, may not find favour, or be too dull for the 'mainstream' (that of course is subjective also). But that doesn't mean they don't have worth. 

                                    0 0 0 0 0 0
                                  • I am a writer. Nothing published yet. Working on my first book for years but now with real purpose like never before. 

                                    0 0 0 0 0 0
                                    • Snap!! :)

                                      0 0 0 0 0 0
                                    • I tell people that I am writing but don't call myself a writer. I get nervous when people ask how it's going or want to read what I've written. I sort of fumble around the question or go super in depth...  I also say I'm aspiring to be a published author which is different to writing for me... I feel guilty for prioritising my writing but I do love it when I step into a world I've created and have fun with it.

                                      0 0 0 0 0 0
                                      • Thanks for this post, Sarah! It’s a great follow up to Fiona’s SFoW session last night ... just yesterday I filled out my occupation as ‘writer’ on a form. Eek! The recipient of the form knows I’m writing a novel and is very supportive but not sure if I’d be open enough to write it anywhere else 😆 I’m not ready to field the questions that might follow! Something I am working on... 

                                        0 0 0 0 0 0
                                        • I'm the same as Brigitte, I tell people I'm writing but I don't call myself a writer. If people ask what I do I tell them about my day job and say that I write as a hobby, even though I'd love to make a career of it one day. I feel under pressure when people ask if I've finished my first book yet and then look disappointed when I tell them that no, it's still not finished. I think I might feel that doubly if called myself a writer. I really hope that one day I have the confidence to call myself a writer...

                                          0 0 0 0 0 0
                                          • Oh gosh.

                                            Like some others here, I really struggle with calling myself a writer. No, I can't even bring myself to do it now, among friends, in a writers' group to which I belong! 

                                            I've written stuff. I've even had a few things 'properly' published, though a long time ago now. I still write stuff, though not nearly as often as I feel I ought too, or nearly as well as I feel I ought to. But am I a 'writer'... rather than just 'someone who writes'? Because they're not the same thing, at least to me. Rightly or wrongly, there's a distinction between the two in my mind. I know I'm the latter. But am I the former..?

                                            I honestly don't know. And I think until I do know, in my secret heart, I'm never going to be able to say 'I am a writer'. No matter how kindly meant and supportive the invitation to do so might be.

                                            0 0 0 0 0 0
                                            • Ouch, Sarah! The most difficult part of this process is how terrified friends and family look at you if they suspect you’re going to talk about your novel…or, heaven forbid, ask them to read it. I’ve had to join a group in England (from Florida) for validation—humiliating, yet in a crazy way, liberating!! Thank you, thank you, Jericho Writers, for being here (there)—I’m desperate—I must write, I will write—I‘M A WRITER—it’s what I do!

                                              0 0 0 0 0 0
                                              • I’ve been agonising about whether I can call myself a writer all day. I’ve written many technical architecture documents while doing my job as an IT Architect before I retired. I’m now scribbling away at writing short stories and novels, concerning my favourite genre - ghost stories. The inspiration for writing ghost stories came about many years ago when I was a child, and came across a compendium of ghost stories by M R James, at my grandmother’s. The book used to belong to her eldest son, Oswald, who unfortunately died from pneumonia when he was 14. I’ve still got that book, and it still gives me inspiration to keep on writing. 

                                                The reality is that I’ve been a writer for many years - creating technical documents as part of my job, and now creating fiction, whether short stories or novels. 

                                                0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                • Me too. As an advisory teacher, in assessment in Hertfordshire, I wrote reports about teachers, projects, research  and children's progress. And now in retirement I discovered I love writing fiction drawn very much from my life experience. I have one novel self pubished, lots of blog posts on my website but I still feel uncomfortable calling myself 'a writer'. I'm just racing to finish my second novel for which a I will try to find an agent. Will I then, if I succeed in finding representation, be able to call myself a writer? 

                                                  Your inspiration is intriguing! Very writerly indeed!


                                                  0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                • I don't mind calling myself a writer in some situations, but usually its others who out me as a writer and I end up using one of the many modifiers—'emerging' or 'aspiring' being the go-to's. My problem is always deflecting whenever any of my friends, family, acquaintances ask me whether I'm still working on 'that book' and how it's going. I have had short pieces published in print and online, though a while ago now. Mainstream publication seems to me like the threshold I feel I have to work toward before using that term more confidently, but I get the feeling reading some of these comments that even then the imposter syndrome won't necessarily leave you alone!

                                                  0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                  • I also use modifiers! And like you I also see publication as a threshold - right now I'm submitting to agents and it is like posting something I love into a void. Tough old game we've signed up for!

                                                    0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                    • It's so nerve-wracking. Plus you've got to wait forever to see if they'll even reply. Not the best process... but good luck!

                                                      0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                    • Yes...I also use the modifying 'aspiring' even on my website explaining who I am!

                                                      0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                      • It's a mind-state that seems to be hard to shift...to be unable to own up to the fact that... 'I'm a writer'...but it really is simple. We write lots, we craft into existence a story to give to others to enjoy. The stories are begging to go out there in the world. We are the portals! Writers!

                                                        0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                        • It's an interesting concept, are you a writer? You could equally ask, are you a writer or do you write (or do you do both)? I certainly write (3 novels in and still trying! 😁) but I think to say that one is a writer is more of a self-definition thing around how you see, or would like to see, yourself. As well as writing I do all sorts of other things, but I don't see any of these as defining me or how I see myself. As I think it was Enola Holmes in the recent film said, (and my paraphrase...) I am many things but it is up to me to define how I define myself. So, if someone writes and also sees themselves as a writer then that's great. It doesn't matter how good or experienced they might be as that is how they see and define themselves both internally and to others. After all, you don't have to be a cook in a Michelin star restaurant to either cook or be a cook. 

                                                          And yes, sorry, I've been having a troubling morning trying to lick a chapter into shape so a bit of philosophy is a marvellous break!

                                                          0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                          • I have considered that I won't feel like I'm a writer until I get the objective validation of an agent or a publisher, and can then appeal to readers. BUT then I read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott which changed how I feel about writing. She made me realise that writers WRITE. If I'm doing it, I'm a writer. I should write for myself, when I have something honest and authentic to say, something meaningful to share. When writers have a book published, Lamott says, it doesn't satisfy or validate or change anything, so you'd better just get ready to write the next book. This is 'being a writer'! 

                                                            0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                            • The saying goes: You are only a writer when you are writing.

                                                              But, at least for me, I'm also a writer when I have to fill in some form for officialdom. Very handy. It's also good for when you need to justify your low income: I'm a writer. Definitely.

                                                              0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                              • Oh my! Delving into my uneasiness to think I am a writer (not to mention saying it aloud to a third party) is taxing in itself. Surely, it's a matter of low confidence (whereas I'm usually assertive and proactive), but there's also a shade of shyness I'm very uncomfortable with.  As many of you said, it's like the validation has to come from the outside otherwise it's not substantial. Publishing wouldn't be enough, though: everybody can publish now. Recently, visiting my parents after almost two years (I live abroad), I discovered  my father (86) had published an autobiographical story and was relaxed and open speaking about it with all his friends. He's currently through his second story, a memoir of his friend and mentor deceased almost twenty years ago. Once again he showed me the way and I feel like a child who's just learning how to walk. No, I'm not ready (yet) to say I'm a writer, but I know that there is the place I'm heading to (and there I will find all of you, right?)

                                                                0 0 0 0 0 0
                                                                Not logged in users can't 'Comments Post'.