When Can You Call Yourself A Writer?

When Can You Call Yourself A Writer?

When can you call yourself a writer?

This is an important question in every writer’s life. At what moment in time can you actually refer to yourself as a writer?

But even the very question itself is deceiving, because there are actually two questions here:

When can you look in the mirror and call yourself a writer? And when can you call yourself a writer in front of several complete strangers at a party?

When can you call yourself a writer in private?

Now. Absolutely right now.

Tell yourself in the mirror before you brush your teeth, then again when you’re driving home from work.

Say it so many times that you get exasperated looks from your spouse. Heck, get business cards printed, too. I remember reading somewhere that Robert De Niro will sometimes repeat his lines dozens of times before filming a scene, in an effort to make himself fully believe what he’s saying. That’s your goal: say it, then say it again until you believe it.

When you finally call yourself a writer, it drives home the fact that this is real. It’s serious. We’re no longer talking about some vague ambition. You’re a professional writer who has to produce content, be that novels or nonfiction books or articles or whatever.

Go ahead and say it right now: “I am a writer.” The more it becomes real for you, the more it will drive you to sit down as much as possible and put words on the page.

call yourself a writer

When can you call yourself a writer in public?

The answer to this question is also now — but this is a different matter altogether. The reason you want to take this step immediately in public is to apply pressure to yourself. If you start telling people that you’re in the middle of a novel, then you darn well better be in the middle of a novel.

But here’s the rub: there are two things that happen when you’re in public and first start referring to yourself as a writer.

The first thing is your friends and spouse may have an irksome tendency to snicker or roll their eyes. The truth is that one cannot become a doctor or welder simply because they say they are. Such professions take degrees and certifications.

But writers don’t need degrees or training, so it may seem like a “cheat” or “exaggeration” to others that you’re suddenly calling yourself something as prestigious as “writer.” So you don’t want to call yourself a writer in public until you’re fully ready to shrug off any silly passive-aggressive nonsense from college buddies.

Quick note from Chuck: I am now taking on clients as a freelance editor. If your query or synopsis or manuscript needs a look from a professional, please consider my editing services. Thanks!

The second thing you must be prepared for is the question that will boomerang back to you 10 times out of 10: “Oh, really — what do you write?”

I don’t care if you are at a book party in Manhattan or a hole-in-the-wall bar in the Yukon. When you say you are a writer, someone will always — always — ask, “What do you write?” and then when you answer with a general response, they will follow that up with, “Anything I might have read?”

Obviously, at the beginning of your career, with no real credits to speak of, you won’t have much to say when people start asking for details. This can cause embarrassing moments of silence, or rambling explanations that reek of self-doubt. So don’t refer to yourself as a writer in public until you have a plan to deal with follow-up questions.

In my opinion, the most important thing to remember when answering such questions is to respond quickly and concisely. Even if your credits are insignificant, if you answer with clarity and speed, it conveys confidence and that you have a plan you don’t need to explain to the world.  Try this conversation:

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Oh, cool. What do you write?”

“I’m just starting out. But to answer your question: articles, mostly. Working on a sci-fi novel when I can.”

“Articles — great. Anything I might have read?”

“Not yet, but I’m working on it. I’m really enjoying myself so far.”

True, such answers aren’t impressive, but they’re confident. The writer is in control. It comes off poorly when, upon being asked what they write, a writer stammers incoherently, then answers the question by basically saying, “I’m not really sure yet, and to tell you the truth, I may just have no clue altogether! Hahaha!”

So if you don’t feel like you can confidently answer the question, or are embarrassed to say aloud that you haven’t been published, think twice before mentioning your writerly aspirations at a soiree.

But don’t forget that the sooner you start calling yourself a writer in private and in public, and the sooner you create a website and business cards, the sooner you will realize your career choice is a serious endeavor and demands your time and attention.

And that is what will drive you to sit down, put in the hard work and create.

Quick note from Chuck: if you’re looking for a writing conference, perhaps one of these below is in your neck of the woods. I’ll be presenting at the following events in 2019:

  • Feb. 23, 2019: New Orleans Writing Workshop (New Orleans, LA)
  • March 2, 2019: Minnesota Writing Workshop (St. Paul, MN)
  • March 8, 2019: Alabama Writing Workshop (Birmingham, AL)
  • March 9, 2019: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
  • March 9, 2019: Pittsburgh Writing Workshop (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • March 29, 2019: St. Louis Writers Conference (St. Louis, MO)
  • March 30, 2019: Kansas City Writing Workshop (Kansas City, MO)
  • April 13, 2019: North Carolina Writing Workshop (Charlotte, NC)
  • April 27, 2019: Seattle Writing Workshop (Seattle, WA)
  • May 4, 2019: Michigan Writing Workshop (near Detroit, MI)
  • May 4, 2019: Writing Conference of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
  • May 11, 2019: San Diego Writing Workshop (San Diego, CA)
  • May 18, 2019: Cincinnati Writing Workshop (Cincinnati, OH)
  • June 8, 2019: Florida Writing Workshop (Tampa, FL)

The giveaway for Chuck’s book Create Your Writer Platform is now over. Thanks for all your comments. Congrats to Teresa Bruce!

Other TWL Guest Posts by Chuck Sambuchino:

  1. The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

  2. Without This, You’ll Never Succeed as a Writer

  3. Querying Literary Agents: Your Top 9 Questions Answered

Filed Under: Craft


  • Tammy Murray says:

    Thanks for validating what I’ve already been hoping/feeling! 🙂 I’m much more confident now when I say I’ve finished “the first draft of my first novel”. I’m still struggling a bit with the “general fiction” part and a brief description of my subject. Need to put some thought into that as I review my manuscript this month. Next step, my carefully hand picked beta readers! Love being a Writer!

  • Billie says:

    I love articles that question the ultimate question… when can you call yourself a writer!

    Went through the same thought process a while ago and since then I love hearing how others deal with it. You can never know enough is my motto in life :D)

    I tried to get out of the sounding arrogant bit of calling myself a writer, but it’s not always possible because some people will always find you crazy or just ignorant if anything.

    Feel free to read how I went through it; will be trackbacking to this article also! (http://ireland-ms.com/2013/10/09/i-am-a-writer/)

    And thank you for always having such brilliant articles on here; if it wasn’t for The Write Life I would often end up with no nails anymore :D)

  • April says:

    Great motivational piece. When I think of writers, I think of creative writing. I’ve written for marketing pieces and non-fiction pieces, but I never really thought of myself as a writer. Now that I blog, I still find it hard to call myself a writer. I’ve seen that confusion of taking mommy bloggers seriously as writers.

  • L.A. Remenicky says:

    Great article! My first book is out and I am continually working on my author program. I am a writer!

  • Angela Braxton-Johnson says:

    Great article! Oh, and chuck, no need to look any further… you can go ahead and send me the book. 🙂

    Seriously though, my uncle John, told me when I was ten years old, after reading my composition book, that I was a writer. “Angie, you are a writer.” Those were his exact words, and although I don’t have a published book yet, I still believe his words now, nearly four decades later.

    I guess it time now to go ahead and put my money where my mouth is and my words where my ‘type’ is! Mmm Hmmm.

    Yes, Honey Child, I AM a writer! 🙂

  • Vonnie Hill-Neyhart says:

    Chuck are you a writer? Can you tell me your answer in six words without aid from your bio. I did not comment to this for the free book. Hell, I’m always reading about how to become a bonafide writer. If I keep reading about how to become an accomplished writer, then I’m not doing much writing. Dammit, I’m a writer the minute I think about writing. I’ve written an e-book novel and short stories, therefore I write. Whether anyone believe, Tough. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer…….. By the way I’m going to buy your book. Looks like chicken soup for a wannabe writer.

  • Emily Moore says:

    Creating my writer email and blog were the first public declarations of my intentions to be a writer. I still have the stuttering social moments in person, but each time it happens I get better and better at telling people about being a writer. At a thanksgiving party this year, I was finally able to say it with confidence and the lady I shared it with said she could tell I was passionate about what I do. YAY!

  • Rebecca Vance says:

    Thanks for such a great post, Chuck! When I first decided to get serious about writing, I decided to follow blogs and Writer’s Digest, and all those “in the know” for advice. One of the first bits of advice was to start an author platform. I started my own blog and got a Twitter and Goodreads account. On one of the discussion threads I referred to myself as an “aspiring writer.” I got back a comment that has helped me so much. I was told that aspiring means hopeful, but just dreaming or thinking about. He further said that if I wrote, even a blog, I was a writer, not aspiring to be one, but I was one. I took this a bit further. Since I plan to write novels and I am working on my first novel, on my social media I refer to myself as an author. This makes me accountable. That way I must be working on my novel. By telling everyone this, I must believe it myself and work at it. It may be a bit presumptuous to call myself an author at this stage, but no one has said to me that I can’t call myself an author. In fact, they have been nothing but encouraging to me. I think first you have to own it, believe it yourself. That will bring the confidence and you will have no trouble saying it, “I am a writer. I write a blog, short stories and I am currently at work on my first novel.” I have never gotten the eye-rolling or the snickers. If you believe it, others will too.

  • April Pang says:

    Those words frighten the depth of my core…”I am a writer”. You mean I have to claim ownership of this thing I do? I can’t tell you how many times I shy away from the very thing that makes me feel like I can breathe. I suppose fear would need to be a factor when considering the “announcement”. To all of the starbound writers out there, write on! I hope to join this elite group of confident ‘wordsmen’. (Did I just make that word up?). 😉 Thanks for the post. Oh, and thanks for reminding me that I am incredibly shy and self conscious!

  • Corwin says:

    Very good advice. I’m not just saying that because I agree with it, but also because it is prudent to watch what you say when you’re starting a novel. I’ve already started talking to friends about my starting out, and some interesting looks and comments have been exchanged. One thing I really liked about your article is that is emphasized the importance of being true to your word when you’re letting people know about your endeavors. The expectations of anyone you will be astronomical, so only state what you really mean. Thank you for the awesome article!

  • Eileen Dandashi says:

    As of November 1 of this year I started calling myself a writer. I’ve been dabbling in writing doing edits on my husband’s writing, but never something for myself. Now I have a book review blog. I’ve combined the love of books with writing about them. I also did my 30-day sprint with NaNoWriMo. I was able to complete my first draft of my first novel. I’m so proud. I CAN say I’m a writer. This next month I’ll start my revisions. November was the best month that I’ve ever had–pure enjoyment. Now I understand so much about what writers talk about. My characters became real to me. I spent the day thinking about them and then from 4 until I slept I wrote down their story.

  • Laurie Marshall says:

    I’ve been rolling around in this kind of advice like a coon dog on a beaver pelt lately. I can’t get enough of it!! 😉 Thanks for more great words of confirmation and encouragement. I just started calling myself a writer this year (confidently!) and it’s amazing the path that those public statements have put me on!

    For the record – freelance mostly, for local community interest publications and blogs aimed at women. I also work with clients to create blog content and manage social media strategy.

  • Petra says:

    Good suggestions and affirmations. Thank you.

  • pam lewis says:

    I’ve been a writer for years in my head and heart. I introduce myself as one now. Time to pen my words to paper or type my complete idea in a tablet.

  • Phil Bond says:

    A writer is, simply, one who writes. It need not be published or even publishable. It can be for yourself, or for your friends or family, or it can be what you hope to share with the world. All that matters is that you put your thoughts, your feelings, your hopes and dreams, into written words.

  • Becky says:

    Excellent advice–thanks for the post! Confidence–and actually writing–are key 🙂

  • Jamie says:

    I’m such an intense person, I’ve never encountered family or friends doubting me when I say I’m a writer despite my lack of credits for most of my life. I published a book of poetry a few years ago, and I’m working on finishing a novel now which I intend to publish. Reading what you wrote, I realize I have considered myself a writer since I was 12. It’s an integral part of who I am. I didn’t even realize I had confidence in this area of my life until I read what you wrote. Thanks for the article!

  • Mo says:

    Hi, my name is Mo and I am a writer

  • Fiona says:

    Very helpful article. This is something I can quite relate to. One thing that can really help new writers gain that professional confidence is to start a blog. So when you’re asked about anything you’ve written, you can confidently tell them that you have a blog they could visit. It would give them the impression that you’re a serious writer, and most of them won’t remember to check out your blog anyway.

  • Skye says:

    Great article. I’ve been having a bit of a writer’s “identity crisis,” which I’m sure we have all experienced. Very helpful!

  • Cc says:

    I ALWAYS wanted to be, and knew I would be a “writer”.  Ever since my fourth grade class back in 1984.                                                                                                                       It wasn’t until somewhere in my thirties I was told                                                                                                                                                                                                          simply,                                                                                                                                                                                                     “if you write, you are a writer”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That truly and finally resonated with me, I believed it myself.   However, the very first and last time  I said it out loud was in front of my brother and sister and immediately  eyes rolled and smirks followed.  I exclaimed with confidence,  “You don’t have to be published to call yourself a writer”   but I  haven’t written anything really  since.  I’ll be forty soon and coming across this  article now, in this New Year  tells me…it’s time to be that writer.  In all honesty though,  it will be  some time before I ever admit that aloud to anyone but myself.   :/                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

  • Andrew says:

    I basically treat it like a job. I’m unemployed in the true sense of the word, but when everyone else is at work, I sit at my desk and try to get on with some writing. When someone asks if I’m free, I may respond by saying that I’m “busy working”. I find this puts me in the right frame of mind. If I act like it’s a living then it becomes more than just a side hobby.

    Also, I totally have business cards printed off last year. Never go anywhere without them. Never get tired of handing them out, even to people who know me.

  • Jessie Mullins says:

    I tell people I’m a writer publicly. No one scoffs in front of my face, but I definitely get those tight smiles and raised eyebrows and the questions, “Oh? Do you know what you want to write yet?” Yet! I love to say, “Yes, actually, I’ve finished a novel and taken it through three revisions and two edits so far, and I’m seeking representation.” And then they keep with the tight smiles, and I go home and write my heart out because one day they will see.
    (I do need to work on sounding more confident when I tell people what my novel is about, though. I should try DiNero’s trick!)