Friday, 17 September 2010

When Can I Call Myself A Writer?

By Richard Jay Parker

I was speaking to a fellow writer this week - although she wouldn't call herself that. She feels that because she isn't published, she isn't a writer. A lot of writers have this attitude. If you feel inside yourself that you are a writer then you are. It's often other people's perception of you that causes the problems.

Every writer goes through periods when their material isn't getting out there. It doesn't mean they're suddenly not a writer.

Before your first piece of work gets picked up (unless you write purely for pleasure) it's a lot harder. Still doesn't mean you're not a writer though. Obviously the ultimate goal is to have your work published or your script shot. To you it legitamises all the hard work and is something tangible, something that you can point at.

Again this is based on what other people's definition of a writer is though. If you're at a party and you tell someone you're a writer the very next question is always 'What have you written? Anything I'd know?' It's a strange assumption - that all writers are involved in high profile, mainstream projects. Tell them you're still perfecting your craft and they're not interested. To them it's as if you've claimed to be a doctor when you're still at medical school.

Ask them what they do. You're an architect? Any famous buildings that I've been in? When are you going to design something I've heard of?

I think the truth of the matter is that a lot of people have considered being writers. Some dabble in it before giving up. It can often be an unrewarding and disheartening process so I certainly can't blame them for that. So when you say you're a writer it's almost an affront to some.

I know writers who have had plenty of work published but don't feel like they're writers because they don't do it full time. It's human nature to achieve something and immediately want the next thing. It's good for our development. Self belief is the key though and, although they might mean nothing to people at a party, try to enjoy every one of those small victories - a rejection letter that isn't a standard one and has some encouraging remarks, interest from an agent that didn't go as far as you wanted it but at least made you feel that your last project took you another rung up the ladder. They're a part of every 'successful' writer's journey.

What matters is that you believe you're making progress - however excruciatingly slow it seems.

If you've just received one of those standard rejection letters and you still find yourself sitting down at your keyboard to write something else because you just have to - then you're a writer. Don't let anyone tell you any different.

Info about Richard's novel and work at:


This Sunday (19th) at 3.00 - 4.00 pm Elizabeth Corley, Zoe Sharp and Richard Jay Parker
will be appearing on a thriller panel in The Waterhouse Room, Reading Museum & Town Hall as part of Reading Festival Of Crime Writing. Books to be signed afterwards. Admission is free but you'll need a festival ticket. Hope to see you there.

Virtual Programme HERE


  1. As a guy who has spent the last 18 months trying to get a novel finally finished, yet when people asking me what I want to be (other than an office monkey!) and I say writer, this is encouraging to know that effectively my consideration that "I am writing therefore I am a writer" holds true. Very encouraging blog for us strugglers who are still staring at an incomplete manuscript with no clue when/if it's going to result in anything tangible. Thanks Richard and I look forward to the next blog...

  2. Really enjoyed the blog. My book was picked up by a small Scottish press, and I find myself trying to justify what I do, when you get the question: 'can I buy it in shops?' it's the inevitable, 'it's in some independent stores or online'...'no it's not in waterstones' is that a Mark of success?

  3. Thank you for this. I agree with Paul, "Very encouraging blog for us strugglers who are still staring at an incomplete manuscript with no clue when/if it's going to result in anything tangible."
    I'm planning to tape it to my mirror as my daily affirmation.

  4. I've finished my (first complete) novel and am now editing 98,000 words.

    If I didn't think of myself as 'a writer' in SOME way (however part-time) I think I'd have topped myself by now! It's others who think I'm 'wasting' my time. Grrr...

    Great post :0)

  5. Marna Neece Loftis I LOVE this blog post!! FINALLY!!! I can now say it with my head held up and not a little under my breath. LOL! I so totally relate!!!

  6. I'm always proud to say I'm writing a novel, less proud when asked who's publishing it. I've done my homework, know what steps to take next, but also know I have to finish the damn thing first. It is frustrating, painful, HARD work that I honestly cannot give up now that I've started, much to my own detriment, and that of my family sometimes. But getting the story out and coming up with a fantastic (or so I think) line of dialog or descriptive phrase is like a drug injected directly into the creative center of the brain.
    Thanks for the pep talk! And validating the process as much as the completed work!
    Wendy Rowland
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  7. I remember talking to an agent once, and he said he given that up, and become a literary agent instead. The reason? When his actors weren't working, they weren't really actors. But writers were always writing, even when they weren't being published. So, as you say, you are a writer because you write, not because you are Dan Brown.

  8. This is so true, Richard. Thanks! A caveat, however. In my experience, when people ask me what I do, it's usually my daughter who pipes up, proud as punch (she's only 7), "My dad's a writer!He writes books." People's eyebrows arch, and they say, "Really?" And then comes the inevitable, "Have you had anything published?" When I tell them that I have, that's it, the flood gates open. Now they're really interested, want to know all about what I do, where they can get it, etc, etc. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case before. Then, there was the little, somewhat mocking smile, the nod of the head, the sigh. "Oh well, keep at it." I have, and I will. That's the real message to us all. Keep going, believe in what you have to say, and say it loud and proud!
    Love these blogs, Richard - loved your book too!

  9. Hi Paul - glad you managed to extract something positive from the blog - best of luck with the manuscript.

    Hi Staff Wielder - publication is a great achievement - small press or not. That's huge progress.

    Thanks Weetiger3 - so glad to provide some inspiration. I've never been a pin-up before.

    Congratulations on finishing, Kit. An achievement in itself. Good luck with the next stage.

    Thanks, Patti. Yes - hold your head up high.

    Hi Anonymous - nothing worth having is ever easy. Sounds like you're keeping your nose to the grindstone.

    Agree, Matt. It's one of the great things about being a writer - you generate your own work rather than waiting for somebody to find it for you.

    Thanks, Glenn. Absolutely. Perseverance is the key. Glad you enjoyed STOP ME.

  10. Not sure if you see new comments to one of your older blogs but your thoughts about writing have encouraged me. Thanks!