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View Full Version : So who, exactly, is a "writer"...?


Barbarique
07-22-2007, 04:36 AM
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The Grift
07-22-2007, 04:53 AM
If Douglas Adams has taught us anything, it is that it is all about the question.

"What do you do for a living?"

"What do you do for fun?"

"Do you have any creative outlets?"

"What are your passions?"

One writer might say "I'm a writer," to one of those, another to all of them, and still others to only some. And there are many other questions just like that which may or may not be answered "I'm a writer."

I would make a sweeping generalization that most people in America classify a person by their vocation, that is to say whatever it is they do that earns a living. Students are given a little more leeway, because even when they are pursuing liberal arts, they are at least enrolled in school which is seen as a way to GET to a useful money-making occupation. Therefore it is much easier to call someone in college a writer or artist or musician when they aren't making any money off of it. Unfortunately, once someone enters "the real world," calling oneself any sort of artist when it is not your vocation seems to bring up the questions about what your actual job is. The fact of the matter is that people are defined by their jobs in today's America. So as a broad answer to your question, I would say anyone who strings words together for dissemination where the words themselves are the purpose of the product, and gets paid for the product, is someone who the rest of society would agree with if they called themselves writers. As for me, I believe anyone who identifies themself with their own tendency towards putting words on paper and wishes to call themselves a writer, is in fact a writer.

Silver King
07-22-2007, 05:09 AM
I cooked dinner, but I'm not a chef.

I fixed my car, but I'm not a mechanic.

I took people fishing, but I'm not a charter guide.

I remodeled my house, but I'm not a contractor.

I stopped the leak, but I'm not a plumber.

So, what makes you think if I wrote a story or novel, I would consider myself a writer?

The Grift
07-22-2007, 05:18 AM
I would argue that if one calls themselves a writer IN GOOD FAITH, that does make it so. Good faith meaning that someone devotes a certain amount of energy to writing and is honest with themselves about their goals.

Someone who claims that they always wanted to write a book and will when they retire but has never set a word to paper would probably realize that they are not a writer if they took an honest look at themselves. At least not yet, though they could make good on their promise and become one. However, someone who loves to write but doesn't because at this point in their life they are working 18 hour days, yet they are constantly thinking about how they could put the world around them into words, if they're honest with themselves they could probably say "I'm a writer," even if they hadn't written word one in months.

Because writing is something we are taught and use in our daily lives, the line between writer and non-writer is tough. It might be easier if we had categories "I'm a drafter," "I'm a novelist," "I'm a poet," "I'm a journalist." But you'd still run into problems.

Defining "I am..." is tough for any profession. For instance, let's take your lawyer example. I have a law degree. Hopefully pretty soon I will be licensed to practice law (should be studying for the bar, but AW is my break!) Yet I won't be practicing law next year, I will be assisting a judge. I have the licenses. I have the skills. I will even be using them. But I will not be advocating for anyone. Am I still going to be a lawyer?

The Grift
07-22-2007, 05:30 AM
I cooked dinner, but I'm not a chef.

I fixed my car, but I'm not a mechanic.

I took people fishing, but I'm not a charter guide.

I remodeled my house, but I'm not a contractor.

I stopped the leak, but I'm not a plumber.

So, what makes you think if I wrote a story or novel, I would consider myself a writer?


All of the things you mentioned are basic applications of skillsets anyone can do with a little instruction. Except the contractor and charter fisherman thing, and the titles of both of those things imply money exchanging hands. If you write reports for work are you a writer? Probably not. But if your purpose at work is to produce words and that's it, not as representation of other work you do, but you were hired because of your facility with words, you'd be a writer. Because at that point, chances are you have chosen to devote a certain amount of energy to writing and the craft. And that's where the good-faith claim of "being" something comes from, knowing that you have devoted a certain amount of yourself to "being" that thing.

I can change my oil, but I'm not a mechanic. If I devoted time and energy to learning about cars, souping them up, fixing them up, and generally became a gear-head, I might say I was a mechanic even if I wasn't professionally.

In my opinion, it comes down to the motivation behind it. I would wager that every professional writer at one point or another was writing things they did not have to. Maybe now they only write for their professional lives, but at some point they had to develop the craft and that desire and that drive is what I think makes someone a writer. A reporter probably wrote for the school paper when they didn't have to. An academic writer pursued degrees that they did not have to and wrote thesises which the rest of us won't have to. Novelists spent hundreds of hours polishing work, never knowing if it would see the top of a slush pile.

If you write a novel, are you a writer? Hell yeah. Even if the novel is horrible, it still took you a substantial amount of energy to complete it. Energy and self-drive. You're not a good writer. You're not a paid writer. But you're a writer.

For all of your examples, most of them were the name of professions. We have names for professional writers. Reporters, copywriters, etc etc. But to just be a writer, I think that's like calling oneself a musician or an artist. I never would, in polite company, but I feel you have the right to if you identify yourself with the craft.

veinglory
07-22-2007, 05:37 AM
Whenever a verb is made a title it can have no precise meaning. You can falsify 'I am writing'. 'I am a writer' is just someone claming an identity. I'm happy for them to do so if it makes them feel better.

I prefer 'I am an author'. I'll be using that one when my first novel is out in print form. That's my personal setting of the bar, for me.

maestrowork
07-22-2007, 05:45 AM
Anyone can say "I <X> therefore I am an <X>er." I think only they know if they are serious or not.

SarahinOhio
07-22-2007, 05:53 AM
Anyone who can grit her teeth and bear the look of wry amusement that follows her saying, "I'm a writer."

That's my test, anyway.

maestrowork
07-22-2007, 06:01 AM
"And what do you do?"
"I'm a writer."
"Oh, and what do you write?"
"x, y and z..."
"And are you published? Where can I read your work?"
"<here> and <there>."

I think these are the questions a "writer" needs to be prepared to answer.

janetbellinger
07-22-2007, 06:03 AM
This is a situation where adjectives such as good, bad, amateur, professional etc. come in really handy. Of course a person who writes is a writer. I mean if we took the approach that a person has to be published in order to be a "real" writer, then we have to apply the same rules to people who work in other creative forms such as visual art. That would have discredited many classical painters of times past, as they weren't able to make any money from their paintings while alive. In my mind, why deny a person the chance to think of him(her)self as a writer, if that increses her (his) self esteem?

But Counselor, is the mere assertion "I'm a writer" sufficient to make it so? That certainly wouldn't work with other professions. I mean, a complete bum could authoritatively state "I'm a lawyer", but would that make it true? (Well, maybe that's not such a good example, but you get my grift... uh, drift.) ;)

CheshireCat
07-22-2007, 06:09 AM
Anyone who can grit her teeth and bear the look of wry amusement that follows her saying, "I'm a writer."

That's my test, anyway.

Or the look of bafflement. In my experience, the average Joe or Jane doesn't have a clue how writers are paid, and you can usually see the wheels turning as they debate whether it's too rude to ask how one makes money writing.

I've always identified myself as a writer (rather than an author) -- but only since the first sale. Before that, what I said was, "I want to be a writer."

So, for me, the clear bar was publication/payment for the work.

Silver King
07-22-2007, 06:23 AM
...If you write a novel, are you a writer? Hell yeah...
No, you just think you are. Perhaps you're confusing the endeavor, the actual act of doing the writing, with the end product, the actual part of being a writer.

Even if the novel is horrible, it still took you a substantial amount of energy to complete it. Energy and self-drive. You're not a good writer. You're not a paid writer. But you're a writer.
Wasted energy does not a writer make. I'm always fascinated by the notion that by turning on a word processor and beating your forehead against a keyboard long enough earns anyone the right to call themselves anything, let alone a writer.

For all of your examples, most of them were the name of professions. We have names for professional writers. Reporters, copywriters, etc etc. But to just be a writer, I think that's like calling oneself a musician or an artist. I never would, in polite company, but I feel you have the right to if you identify yourself with the craft.
The best way to identify yourself with the craft is to have your work published and/or paid for. It's as simple as that. And even then you had better accumulate a sizable body of work before anyone who knows better will call you a writer with a straight face.

Billingsgate
07-22-2007, 07:16 AM
Funny, I've struggled for years with the question of whether or not to identify myself as an "artist" or "writer". I'm embarrassed to call myself either one in public. Perhaps this is a result of knowing too many people back in college who put on airs, dressed eccentrically (usually in black), smoked obscure brand clove cigarettes and talked a lot about their being a Writer or an Artist or a Composer. To this day - probably unfairly - when I meet someone who says "I'm an artist" or "I'm a writer", my initial (unspoken!) response is "fraud".

I've made a living for over 25 years from words and pictures, and I actually put myself through therapy just to be able to accept the fact that I might actually consider myself an artist or writer, and not just some nobody. But when people ask what I do, I still dodge the topic: "I write articles and books" or "I draw cartoons". Definitely not "I'm a writer." This is not false humility. The most active creative people I meet, both professional and those who don't make a living at it but are serious and prolific, more often than not share my discomfort at labelling themselves "I am a writer/artist/composer".

My therapist thought that having the courage to proclaim "I'm a writer!" is necessary self-validation. But I still think of those people in black smoking clove cigarettes and claiming to be "a Writer".

So...my answer to the question "When can one claim to be a writer?" is: Never. (Shut up, therapist!)

joetrain
07-22-2007, 07:34 AM
if being published makes you a writer then some of the greatest writers in history were never writers, or at least not for many years while they silently churned out masterpieces.

but, whatever. does it matter? kafka never wanted to write professionally and fought against the publication of his work till he died. i don't know if he called himself a writer but, whatever, he wrote good stories. i don't care if he called himself a dinosaur donut.

veinglory
07-22-2007, 07:37 AM
If someone wants to use publication as their 'bar' why not? After all, labels are about what we call ourselves, not others. The only possible use they have other than ego-stroking is aspirational.

SarahinOhio
07-22-2007, 07:45 AM
No, you just think you are. Perhaps you're confusing the endeavor, the actual act of doing the writing, with the end product, the actual part of being a writer.


The best way to identify yourself with the craft is to have your work published and/or paid for. It's as simple as that. And even then you had better accumulate a sizable body of work before anyone who knows better will call you a writer with a straight face.

No, because then it becomes about other people's judgment of your writing. Your passion for writing, and the act of writing, is not subservient to someone "who knows better." Art doesn't work that way. The artist makes art, and the writer writes a story. The act is the thing. What becomes of the finished project is incidental to the artist's motivation and inspiration.

I never enjoy telling people, "I'm a writer," for the belittlement mentioned above. But I control how I define my life. No one else.

Azraelsbane
07-22-2007, 07:45 AM
I don't really know what I am, but writing is the only thing I've been passionate about since, well... the first time I was asked to write a story in school. When people ask me what I do, I say "I write. I would love to be a published author one of these days." Sadly, unless I get up the nerve to query my work, I'll likely be saying that till the day I die ;)

Silver King
07-22-2007, 08:07 AM
No, because then it becomes about other people's judgment of your writing. Your passion for writing, and the act of writing, is not subservient to someone "who knows better." Art doesn't work that way. The artist makes art, and the writer writes a story. The act is the thing. What becomes of the finished project is incidental to the artist's motivation and inspiration.

I never enjoy telling people, "I'm a writer," for the belittlement mentioned above. But I control how I define my life. No one else.
Who said anything about judgment? No one is judging anyone here. The question was, "What constitutes a writer?" I gave my opinion. You can think whatever you want.

As for your view of, "The artist makes art, and the writer writes a story," is about as far into a pile of bullshit as you can get. And, "The act is the thing," has me tasting it.

Tell you what: Here's a pile of bullshit, right here where you created it. Now step in it and enjoy the trek.

Good luck.

Birol
07-22-2007, 08:19 AM
No, because then it becomes about other people's judgment of your writing. Your passion for writing, and the act of writing, is not subservient to someone "who knows better." Art doesn't work that way. The artist makes art, and the writer writes a story. The act is the thing. What becomes of the finished project is incidental to the artist's motivation and inspiration.

Are you sure art doesn't art work that way?

If people had not judged Picasso to be great, would he still be remembered as an artist? If people had not enjoyed Shakespeare's work, would he still be remembered as a poet and playwright?

BTW, I don't claim to know. I'm just asking a question that occurred to me as I read this thread.

SarahinOhio
07-22-2007, 08:45 AM
Who said anything about judgment? No one is judging anyone here. The question was, "What constitutes a writer?" I gave my opinion. You can think whatever you want.

As for your view of, "The artist makes art, and the writer writes a story," is about as far into a pile of bullshit as you can get. And, "The act is the thing," has me tasting it.

Tell you what: Here's a pile of bullshit, right here where you created it. Now step in it and enjoy the trek.

Good luck.

Wow. I was also giving an opinion. Isn't that allowed without being accused of shoveling b.s.?

I'm talking about my fundamental definition of a writer. Of course there are qualifiers that one can add. "Published writer" sounds better than "writer" to me. And so I try to get published. But those are qualifiers to make yourself sound more accomplished to others, and to influence possible readers. At some point, I'd like to be able to call myself, "author," which also denotes being published to me.

Writing is a very intimate process. And I wasn't inferring that you were judging anyone. I just stated that other people's judgment shouldn't sway how someone identifies herself. Sure, other people can disagree with that interpretation. To each his own.

But geez, I hope my b.s. doesn't stink as bad as your cynicism.

If people had not judged Picasso to be great, would he still be remembered as an artist? If people had not enjoyed Shakespeare's work, would he still be remembered as a poet and playwright?

Once again, it's not about being remembered. Anyone who consistently creates art or writes novels, poems, plays, or poems is an artist or writer to me. I know it sounds corny, and I quote this at the risk of offending delicate sensibilities, but they're following their bliss. And I applaud them for it.

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 08:49 AM
As the result of a most interesting exchange elsewhere on the forum, I find myself pondering a rather knotty question, which is: At what point does a person become entitled to credibly claim that she/he is a writer? By which I mean, is there --or should there be-- a definitive line or set of criteria which differentiates those who are, from those who say they are?

Any one who writes is a writer.

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 08:52 AM
I don't think payment for one's writing is necessary -- have you any idea how many truly great writers made little or no money for their writing? Poets, novelists, essayists, dramatists -- there are more in the canon who didn't earn a living than there are those who did.

Writing makes one a writer.

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 09:03 AM
Good lord, why is it that I find posts like this on weekends?

Guys, chill, or I'll post something about writing and writers that will make your heads hurt.

I mean it.

JenNipps
07-22-2007, 09:09 AM
I would agree with Medievalist's assertion that writing makes one a writer. I would also add, though, that whether you call yourself a writer or not is due in large part to a change in mindset. You have to give yourself permission to say you're a writer. Until that happens, you might say you write as a hobby but you wouldn't necessarily call yourself a writer.

I wrote for several years before I finally gave myself permission to say, "Yes, I'm a writer." That made a big difference in my own perceptions of myself as a writer as opposed to a college student (which I was at the time) or a medical transcriptionist (which I am now).

This is all, of course, my opinion only.

Birol
07-22-2007, 09:09 AM
Good lord, why is it that I find posts like this on weekends?

Guys, chill, or I'll post something about writing and writers that will make your heads hurt.

I mean it.

Yes, please.

rugcat
07-22-2007, 09:18 AM
A man is a writer if all his words are strung in definite sentence sounds.
- Marianne Moore

The Grift
07-22-2007, 10:04 AM
A writer is whatever group I'm currently part of. That currently means amateur fiction-writer who makes excuses for not writing enough.* When I am published, writers will only be people whose work is published. When I am making a living at it, a writer will only be one who does it professionally. When I am a best seller and my earlier works are deconstructed in literature classes, writers will only be that select group of authors whose works are accepted in academic circles as worthy of dissection. When I am old and disnechanted and have sworn off the written word, writers will only be that select group of nihilists who have seen that writing is a sham, everything has been done, and the only way to add to the craft is to stop practicing it. We will be the true writers.

There.

That's the final word. That is who, exactly, a writer is.




*Although I fit into groups such as "academic," "write-for-work," and things along that lines, I have chosen to eliminate them along with technical writers, students, journalists, and anyone who writes anything that is not ficiton (including plays and screenplays) or poetry. You know, just for ease of definitions. Sorry guys!

Chasing the Horizon
07-22-2007, 10:07 AM
I started calling myself a writer when I quit working to write (after all, what else would I call myself?). I'd love someday to call myself a professional novelist or an author, but for now I'm just a writer.

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 10:13 AM
Can't argue with that. I suppose any differentiation is merely a question of... degree? Gravitas? Otherwise it means the guy who writes the warning labels on ant spray is every bit as much of a "writer" as Theodore Dreiser :)

Hell, yes.

Look -- the person who writes labels is likely a trained technical writer with at least an M.A./M.S. degree, a writing degree, and a lot of experience too. It's extremely difficult work and your writing is scrutinized by a slew of people, including many many lawyers.

It pays quite well too.

Anthony Ravenscroft
07-22-2007, 11:13 AM
Someone who's thinking about maybe buying a guitar & then (having never actually touched an instrument) taking lessons would look ridiculous for saying, "I'm a guitarist."

Yet someone who can barely write a coherent shopping list can say, "I'm a writer" & draw active & even strident defenders.

I play a great guitar. Even when I was making some active cash from it I was reluctant to call myself a guitarist, because while it is a defining facet of myself it is hardly crucial. I prefer to say "I play a half-decent guitar."

In the same manner, I'm reluctant to call myself a writer, though as a shor-hand it keeps conversation moving. Given the chance, I prefer to say "I write stuff, some of it pretty good."

This only gets messy when there's various clubs & unions & organizations. I mean, if anyone can jump up & say "I must be allowed membership because I demand it!!" then it calls to question the depth of any organizing principles -- for instance "professional standards" or "equable dealings." That's true whether you're talking writers, musicians, plumbers, or doctors.

Worse is when the least-qualified -- which almost by definition are numerous -- can with impunity shape standards against the most qualified (almost by definition scarce). (Said organizations are stuck with both edges of the sword: creating a strong group without making the group so big as to become meaningless.)

Looked at from another angle: If you think this conversation's pointless because it doesn't affect you, then participating in the conversation suggests you're terminally incapable of detecting your own ironies....

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 11:22 AM
NOUN: One who writes, especially as an occupation.

http://www.bartleby.com/61/11/W0241100.html

And a bunch of other dictionaries (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/writer).

maestrowork
07-22-2007, 12:00 PM
Any one who writes is a writer.

By your definition, though, almost everyone is a writer. I know, that's probably a dictionary definition: "writer: one who writes." But people write all the time: journals, poems, jingles, letters, e-mail, bulletin board postings, dear diary, etc. It's like saying "anyone who sings is a singer" or "anyone who plays a piano is a pianist." So what makes what we do unique? Is it the modifier "professional"? A "singer" vs. a "professional singer," perhaps?

Personally, I wouldn't call myself a pianist even if I can and do play a little tune on a piano. Nor would I call myself a runner because I can move my legs very fast on the road. Then again, I would probably call myself a golfer after playing 18 holes.

For me, I do believe in what I said in post #9:

Anyone can say "I <X> therefore I am an <X>er." I think only they know if they are serious or not.

When we call ourselves a "writer" or "artist" or "pianist" or "golfer" I think it implies certain kind of commitment and accomplishments, but NOT necessarily in terms of publication or awards or how much we are getting paid. But I personally don't think it should be used "casually" either.

Otherwise, I would be in a lot of trouble if I call myself a "pianist" using a dictionary's definition only:

pi·an·ist [pee-an-ist, pyan-, pee-uh-nist]
–noun
a person who plays the piano.

maestrowork
07-22-2007, 12:11 PM
Hell, yes.

Look -- the person who writes labels is likely a trained technical writer with at least an M.A./M.S. degree, a writing degree, and a lot of experience too. It's extremely difficult work and your writing is scrutinized by a slew of people, including many many lawyers.

It pays quite well too.

How about the six year old girl who writes in her diary every night? Or the guy who writes graffiti on public walls? Or the lady who writes flyers for her church?

Probably "yes." But if they say "I'm a writer" they probably will have to explain exactly what they mean by that.

robeiae
07-22-2007, 07:17 PM
"And are you published? Where can I read your work?"
"<here> and <there>."

I think these are the questions a "writer" needs to be prepared to answer.Do posts in AW threads count as publishing credits, once the thread has been locked?

scarletpeaches
07-22-2007, 07:19 PM
No, you just think you are. Perhaps you're confusing the endeavor, the actual act of doing the writing, with the end product, the actual part of being a writer.

Er, well you might think so.

If you write something, you're a writer. Being published is what would make me an novelist.

After all, to say publication is what makes one a writer throws up the interesting argument that it isn't the writing of the book that makes one a writer, but the publication of it. So nothing changes within the creative person, but external forces (finding an agent and publisher) is what retroactively makes them a writer? I mean, what? Writing doesn't make you a writer? If it doesn't, what does? You only become a writer on publication even though the book is already written? If you're not a writer when you're writing, when are you?

There's written work that exists which wasn't there before I came. I wrote it. I'm a writer. Am I an novelist? No. Not yet.

Jamesaritchie
07-22-2007, 07:21 PM
I think the real answer is What difference does it make what you call yourself.
Calling yourself a writer will only get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks if you throw in five dollars.

You can define your life any way you like, you call give yourself any title you like, you can claim any occupation you like, but if you want a cup of coffee, you still have to pay for it.

The only real difference between writing any other occupations is that other occupations make you prove it. Writing doesn't. There are no amateurs in writing, there are no people who want to be writers, there are only people who say they are writers, no matter what.

Hillgate
07-22-2007, 07:27 PM
Anyone can say "I <X> therefore I am an <X>er." I think only they know if they are serious or not.

Agreed. And...

If I sell one house for a friend it doesn't make me an estate agent/realtor, but if I do it a few times every month then in many people's eyes I am a realtor, whatever I think I am.

Subjective view vs objective, right?

Hillgate
07-22-2007, 07:30 PM
Er, well you might think so.

If you write something, you're a writer. Being published is what would make me an novelist.

After all, to say publication is what makes one a writer throws up the interesting argument that it isn't the writing of the book that makes one a writer, but the publication of it. So nothing changes within the creative person, but external forces (finding an agent and publisher) is what retroactively makes them a writer? I mean, what? Writing doesn't make you a writer? If it doesn't, what does? You only become a writer on publication even though the book is already written? If you're not a writer when you're writing, when are you?

There's written work that exists which wasn't there before I came. I wrote it. I'm a writer. Am I an novelist? No. Not yet.

If you write novels you ARE a novelist Scarletpeaches. Don't do yourself down! :) You're just unpublished and that will soon change.

scarletpeaches
07-22-2007, 07:33 PM
Well I guess so; that's just the way I distinguish between published/unpublished though. But it's funny, if I tell people I've written a book they usually ask, "Is it published?" so not everyone assumes every writer is!

A few people have asked, "When will it be published?" I know some very kind people. ;)

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 07:41 PM
By your definition, though, almost everyone is a writer. I know, that's probably a dictionary definition: "writer: one who writes." But people write all the time: journals, poems, jingles, letters, e-mail, bulletin board postings, dear diary, etc. It's like saying "anyone who sings is a singer" or "anyone who plays a piano is a pianist." [quote]

Exactly. One who writes, anything at all, is a writer.

[quote]
So what makes what we do unique? Is it the modifier "professional"? A "singer" vs. a "professional singer," perhaps?

What you write, what you say and how you say it, makes you unique.


Personally, I wouldn't call myself a pianist even if I can and do play a little tune on a piano. Nor would I call myself a runner because I can move my legs very fast on the road. Then again, I would probably call myself a golfer after playing 18 holes.


One can be a writer, a good writer, a very good writer, a professional writer, a poor writer, a novelist, a poet, an author, a published writer, an unpublished writer . . .

benbradley
07-22-2007, 07:48 PM
Hell, yes.

Look -- the person who writes labels is likely a trained technical writer with at least an M.A./M.S. degree, a writing degree, and a lot of experience too. It's extremely difficult work and your writing is scrutinized by a slew of people, including many many lawyers.

It pays quite well too.
I could be quibbling details, and perhaps you know a lot more about the actual process than I do, but it seems to me such a label is effectively written by a committee (you know, a thing with 100 legs and no brain), and it may be hard to pin the "credit" on just one person. I can imaging the "inspiration" credit for such a label: The congressperson who wrote the bill that got turned into the law that prompted the need for the label.

But since they're all getting paid to do what they do, ALL of the people involved (including the congressperson) can be "labeled" not just writers, but professional writers.

Do posts in AW threads count as publishing credits, once the thread has been locked?
If "The Web" is considered publishing, they're counted as "publishing credits" regardless of whether the thread is locked (there's no guarantee of permanence on the Web anyway). This link doesn't come up with anything as I write this, but just wait a few days, or even hours:
http://www.google.com/search?q=%22Do+posts+in+AW+threads+count+as+publis hing+credits

A few years ago I was asked to write a short "history" page of a certain website, and did so, without pay. I was told the original "content provider" liked it, and it was placed as an extra "history of" link on the main webpage. I honestly don't think it's 'great' writing, but I managed to be grammatically correct, not have any misspellings, and get the basic idea across. So at least in a more "real" sense than just writing posts on AW, I'm a writer who is "published on The Web." But I'm not (yet) a "professional writer" as I've not (yet) been paid for any of my writing.

I feel like I've hardly made a start as a "fiction writer" as most of my output so far as been in those Sunday night Flash Fiction challenges, which for me totals only a few thousand words. Someone needs to whip me...

maestrowork
07-22-2007, 08:07 PM
One can be a writer, a good writer, a very good writer, a professional writer, a poor writer, a novelist, a poet, an author, a published writer, an unpublished writer . . .

I know what you mean, and the need for a modifier before the term writer or the other distinctions. Still, I think it's just a bit too clinical. My example of not calling myself a pianist (or a poor pianist) kind of illustrates the need for people to not go by dictionary's definition. :) Like James said, the difference is that with other endeavors, we'll have to prove it (if you say you're a golfer, let's play; if you say you're a painter, let's see your paintings), but with "writers" all one has to do is say, "I'm a writer." And in fact, everyone IS a writer -- because, well, everyone writes.

JenNipps
07-22-2007, 08:10 PM
How about the six year old girl who writes in her diary every night? Or the guy who writes graffiti on public walls? Or the lady who writes flyers for her church?

Probably "yes." But if they say "I'm a writer" they probably will have to explain exactly what they mean by that.

Ray, I think what you're saying is vald, but at the same time, I think it also goes along with the mindset thing I mentioned, too. When you ask these people if they think they're a writer, chances are most of them will say no.

That's not to say they will, of course. *s*

I also think that those of us who do consider ourselves writers will often (again, not always) say something about what we've written when we identify ourselves as a writer.

Or, at least, that's been the case with people I've talked to. (And I'm probably making very little sense.)

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 08:12 PM
I could be quibbling details, and perhaps you know a lot more about the actual process than I do, but it seems to me such a label is effectively written by a committee (you know, a thing with 100 legs and no brain), and it may be hard to pin the "credit" on just one person.

It's revised by committee, mostly a committee of scientists/engineers and lawyers, but usually it's written by one person--and in some cases, you get royalties.

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 08:13 PM
And in fact, everyone IS a writer -- because, well, everyone writes.

Yes. Exactly. That's my point--and your writing speaks louder than any publishing credit about the kind and quality and value of your work.

maestrowork
07-22-2007, 08:15 PM
I just knew that five years ago I wouldn't dare tell people I was a writer (I probably would consider myself a writer all my life, though). It wasn't until I decided to make a go for it as a profession.

I guess there's an internal recognition (oh, yeah, I write, therefore I am a writer) and the external part of it (telling people "I'm a writer, and here's what I do").

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 08:17 PM
Ray, I think what you're saying is vald, but at the same time, I think it also goes along with the mindset thing I mentioned, too. When you ask these people if they think they're a writer, chances are most of them will say no.

I rarely identify myself as a writer, though certain individuals have of late been insistent that I are a writer.

Yet I write, on a daily basis. I am paid to write, and have been for years. I am published.

In terms of accuracy, if you ask me "Are you a writer?" I'll cop to it, it's just not an identity that looms large for me.

Jamesaritchie
07-22-2007, 08:18 PM
Yes, anyone who writes is a writer. And anyone who changes the spark plugs in his car is a mechanic.

It's a nice world when simply trying makes you a success. It's a shame other occupations actually require some expertise, some accomplishment.

maestrowork
07-22-2007, 08:21 PM
I think "occupation" is a good word.

You're a writer because you write. But when you call it your occupation, then you should be able to back it up. At least I think so.

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 08:23 PM
Yes, anyone who writes is a writer. And anyone who changes the spark plugs in his car is a mechanic.

It's a nice world when simply trying makes you a success. It's a shame other occupations actually require some expertise, some accomplishment.

James. A writer's writing says whether the person is a good writer or not. It does, err, speak louder than words.

There's a difference between a writer and an author.

There's also the inverse--I have been known to look at a person's words and say "She's not a writer," and in that case the context and my tone indicate that I'm saying yes, this person has assembled text on a page or a screen, but it's not done well or even competently.

Medievalist
07-22-2007, 09:05 PM
Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus - Cite This Source


A thesaurus is just a collection of words with similar meanings. It doesn't give the semantic range.

I give you the thrice-blessed American Heritage Dictionary (http://www.bartleby.com/61/19/A0531900.html):


NOUN:
1a. The writer of a book, article, or other text.
1b. One who practices writing as a profession.
2. One who writes or constructs an electronic document or system, such as a website.
3. An originator or creator, as of a theory or plan.
4. Author God.

TRANSITIVE VERB: Inflected forms: au·thored, au·thor·ing, au·thors
1. Usage Problem To assume responsibility for the content of (a published text).
2. To write or construct (an electronic document or system): authored the company's website.

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English auctour, from Old French autor, from Latin auctor, creator, from auctus, past participle of augre, to create. See aug (http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE28.html)- in Appendix I.

USAGE NOTE: The verb author, which had been out of use for a long period, has been rejuvenated in recent years with the sense “to assume responsibility for the content of a published text.” As such it is not quite synonymous with the verb write; one can write, but not author, a love letter or an unpublished manuscript, and the writer who ghostwrites a book for a celebrity cannot be said to have “authored” the creation. The sentence He has authored a dozen books on the subject was unacceptable to 74 percent of the Usage Panel, probably because it implies that having a book published is worthy of special lexical distinction, a notion that sits poorly with conventional literary sensibilities and seems to smack of press agentry. The sentence The Senator authored a bill limiting uses of desert lands in California was similarly rejected by 64 percent of the Panel, though here the usage is common journalistic practice and is perhaps justified by the observation that we do not expect that legislators will actually write the bills to which they attach their names. •The use of author as a verb in computer-related contexts is well established and unexceptionable.




Notice that "author" is tied semantically to the concept of creation, of creating a specific work/document/text. Notice that 1b ties author to "profession." Notice too the reference, and the Usage Note, on “to assume responsibility for the content of a published text.”

Soccer Mom
07-22-2007, 09:41 PM
Ow! my head hurts now.

Saundra Mitchell
07-22-2007, 10:08 PM
You can claim to be a writer anytime you want. I know plenty of "writers" who have been "researching" their novels for 15 years and have yet to put a single letter to the page, for example.

But I reckon you actually *are* a writer when you stop feeling like you're being interrogated when some helpful, but clueless, acquaintance asks, "Where can I read your stuff?"

robeiae
07-22-2007, 10:19 PM
Well, I think there's something to be said for getting labelled by others versus labelling yourself.

Consider someone who is pretty handy with tools and skilled at woodworking, who sometimes makes his own furniture. I see some of it and ask if he could make me a footstool ("Abracadabra...you're a footstool!"). They do. I put that footstool in my house and a friend notices it, admires it, and asks where I got it. "Jimmy Jack made it for me; he's a helluva carpenter." My friend agrees. We both look at the product of someone's skills and on that basis, call him a carpenter. Jimmy Jack might not use that label at all. But I submit that with regard to the production of something, it is the opinions of others that carry the most weight.

Still, there are arguments to be had. And personally, I'm comfortable with telling people I want to be a writer, or that I'm trying to write for publication. Beyond that truth, I don't really care how I'm labelled at this point in time.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
07-22-2007, 10:23 PM
Back here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1489137&postcount=16), Mac called me a 'writer'. That's good enough for me.

robeiae
07-22-2007, 10:25 PM
Back here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1489137&postcount=16), Mac called me a 'writer'. That's good enough for me.
It would be for me, too. Unfortunately, that's not what Mac tends to call me...

Ol' Fashioned Girl
07-22-2007, 10:29 PM
That's 'cause you're a bad boy and I'm a sweet li'l angel. Yeah. That's it. :D

Angelinity
07-22-2007, 10:33 PM
... smoked obscure brand clove cigarettes .... To this day - probably unfairly - when I meet someone who says "I'm an artist" or "I'm a writer", my initial (unspoken!) response is "fraud".



ahem. i confess to smoking obscure brand clove cigarettes.... guess that makes me a... :cry:

joetrain
07-22-2007, 10:44 PM
having not been published for money, i say, "i want to be a writer," but there are people out there who call me a writer, which is fine; secretly i fancy myself one. at a bar the other month i was introduced to a stranger who said, "hey, you're the writer right? i've read some of your stories." i almost defecated with glee. "how the hell did you find my stories?" turns out they just got passed along.

writer? yes please. but i'll hold off calling myself one.

WriterInChains
07-22-2007, 10:55 PM
Any one who writes is a writer.

Exactly what I was going to say.

If I write a story & nobody publishes it for 10 years, does that mean I wasn't a writer the day I wrote it? Or the day I sent it to the first market? Outside validation isn't a bad thing, but not necessary to be a writer.

Just because some are more comfortable with everyone sitting quietly in their labelled boxes, doesn't mean everyone is. I made my living writing for a while, but didn't cease to be a writer when I changed jobs. In fact, IMO the opposite is true.

CheshireCat
07-23-2007, 12:54 AM
Fascinating thread.

Seems to me that you can argue until the cows come home, but because writing is something most any educated person can, technically, do (in the sense of stringing together words to make sentences and, hopefully, points of some sort), there should be a division of some kind between someone capable of stringing together words and sentences and someone capable of forming them into a coherent story or coherent (nonfiction) reporting of a factual event or events.

As has been pointed out here (numerous times), the bar for most professions is some kind of professional education, degree, license, recognition, and/or pay.

Assuming truth and no attempt to be a con artist:

Calling yourself a doctor requires a certain amount of education and a supervised apprenticeship (internship, residency).

Calling yourself a lawyer or attorney requires a certain amount of education, a degree, and the passing of a "bar" exam.

Calling yourself a mechanic -- well, I've known many people I would consider mechanics who had little formal education, but LOTS of experience and a thorough familiarity with cars, who worked at repair shops as mechanics. But they were getting paid for their work on a regular basis.

Calling yourself a chef usually requires extensive education and experience.

Calling yourself a cop requires very specific education and training.

Calling yourself an artist ... Hmmm. Well, I doubt many would argue with you if you devote much of your time to putting paint on canvas or shaping clay, but they might argue your right to call yourself a professional artist unless you were being paid for that work.

Calling yourself a musician seems to straddle the same sort of line. You can play one instrument or many instruments, even create original music, and your peers might consider you brilliant, but I doubt they'd consider you a professional musician unless you were being paid for your efforts.

Like it or not, for the creative professions, the line between professional and amateur is probably payment for the work.

That is not, of course, a value judgment on the quality of the work produced by an "amateur" creative person; I'm as certain that gifted artists lived and died in total obscurity as I am that gifted writers have done and will do the same.

The difference between most other professions and the creative professions, I think, is that there exists no arbitrary, measurable amount of knowledge or a skill base one can work to acquire and, upon acquiring it, declare oneself an expert.

For most of us creative types, our peers as well as society tend to view us as amateurs until we get paid for our efforts.

As I said in an earlier post, I didn't call myself a writer until the first sale. Before that, I wanted to be a writer, and considered myself aspiring -- even though I was producing work.

So maybe it's just that. I view unpublished writers as aspiring because that's how I viewed myself back in the day. To me, there's an aspiring writer (amateur) and a published writer (professional).

Obviously, judging by this thread, your mileage will vary. :D

Ol' Fashioned Girl
07-23-2007, 02:04 AM
At the end of the day, does it really matter?

Inky
07-23-2007, 02:24 AM
I cooked dinner, but I'm not a chef.

I fixed my car, but I'm not a mechanic.

I took people fishing, but I'm not a charter guide.

I remodeled my house, but I'm not a contractor.

I stopped the leak, but I'm not a plumber.

So, what makes you think if I wrote a story or novel, I would consider myself a writer?
Okay, this has to be one of the best damned answers I've ever seen! Hmmm...might have to incorporate this towards my husband...it'll make a fabulous argument:
just because I have tits, does that make me a cook?
just because I have hips, does that make me a housekeeper?
just because I have a mouth, does that make me a....er....what thread am I on?
Oh. Ooops.

I'm a writer because I say so. Because I write 14 hours per day. Because my mind is forever locked on past/present scenes. Because I will bleed myself before going a day without writing. Because I get the shakes whenever I see an Office Depot--hey, to each his own, okay?

All kidding aside: this is my life. It is my career, my obsession, my passion. I can't imagine--WON'T imagine--myself doing anything else. EVAH!

benbradley
07-23-2007, 02:31 AM
At the end of the day, does it really matter?

It depends on whether your writing helps you take home a chick check.

Okay, so maybe I'm not the best humor writer in the world...

Inky
07-23-2007, 02:36 AM
To label an unpublished writer as an amateur is a harsh assumption. I've been a major accountant for a national corporation; not one stinkin' classroom hour learning the trade. So, which catagory did I fall under?
One cannot judge professionalism simply by a piece of paper in a frame, or by the cover of a book.

To those of you out there that have yet to be published, stay true to yourself, true to your craft, let nothing tear down your belief in yourself.

Inky
07-23-2007, 02:37 AM
It depends on whether your writing helps you take home a chick check.

Okay, so maybe I'm not the best humor writer in the world...
I dunno...I laughed....

Inky
07-23-2007, 02:39 AM
At the end of the day, does it really matter?
You go girl. No, it doesn't. The only thing that matters is how you see YOURSELF.
Because, at the end of the day, no one else is going to give a damn.

Birol
07-23-2007, 02:50 AM
To label an unpublished writer as an amateur is a harsh assumption.

In sports, an amateur is someone who has never been paid to play the game; a professional is someone who has received monetary compensation to perform their sport.

davids
07-23-2007, 03:00 AM
I get money to write but consider myself a professional lay-about! I also do a lot of axiomatic confrontations as opposed to perambulatory messmerisms-well I do a bit of that-oops there goes my line-out fishin' gotta go-Silver knows of what I speak although I am not sure meself-shit there goes me crap top-damn-thank God the deck is teak-not so hard on the old crap-top-Silver's answer is as good as any-I am laying/lying/lieing/have laid upon while lieing/not laying while lieing- on the deck trying to finish this and my line is stripping-and-if I die-remember one thing-write till your asshole bleeds-then ponder everything till yer bum drops off!!

veinglory
07-23-2007, 03:12 AM
Of course an unpublished writer is an amateur. Amateur means not having been paid for it yet. Doesn't it?

I have been paid for writing, in fact I am every month but would still consider myself basically an amateur because I write more as a hobby than a career.

Birol
07-23-2007, 03:25 AM
I believe people are approaching the term "professional" from different perspectives.

In many areas, a "professional" is someone who has been paid to practice their craft, such as sports, sex, or music. In others, "professional" refers to someone who is licensed or certified, such as engineers or accountants.

Since inked09102 is in accounting, I assume she's more accustomed to thinking of professionals as someone who is certified or licensed than she is to thinking of a professional as someone who performs a task for money or to make a living. Thus, in her world, one can be paid to complete a task and still not be a professional and yet, by the other definition, not be an amateur either.

rugcat
07-23-2007, 04:12 AM
There’s another connotation for professional. I think of it as someone who has truly mastered their craft, in whatever profession, thus the common phrase, “So and so is a real professional.”

I play guitar, have for many years. People occasionally pay me money to play–I just did a jazz trio gig last week and got $100. So technically I could be termed a professional musician, but I would never call myself that–I reserve that term for people far more skilled than I–those who have command of their instrument, those who can play anything, anywhere--true professionals.

Am I a professional writer? I’ve published books, but not yet, not in my terms. I do have hope, though.

SpookyWriter
07-23-2007, 04:44 AM
If I invent something am I an inventor? Or is it when I receive a patent? Or when I sell the patent? Just when does one become an inventor?

Same with arts such are painting, music, and writing. There are enough artisans who didn't make any money or very little from their work until after their death.

Were they not still painters, artisans, or writers? Art is not an essential activity to improve our lives, or a mechanical derivative of changing oil, nor is it a task of refitting our roofing to keep out the rain. Art is an expression of our inner thoughts and demons. We write, paint, create music as a means to share with the world our feelings, fears, heartaches, joys, etc. This act of writing a story or poem, play, or any expression that is communicated in the written word makes us writers and artisans.

I see the writer as someone who works on their craft. Someone who learns from practice. Someone who is serious about publication; which means they want their work recognized. But in the same breath, I think making money from writing is an incentive and not an end-all for the reason to write.

Manat
07-23-2007, 04:46 AM
I think of it in terms of wannabe writers, writers, and published authors. I was a wannabe writer all those years I wrote down ideas in my notebook, told myself I could write a novel if I really put my mind to it, and made several stops and starts without completing anything, though in retrospect I was learning something of the craft.

I became comfortable calling myself a writer when I completed a manuscript and submitted it. From my viewpoint, it was the act of completing something from start to finish, and putting it out there for readers who weren't family or friends, that made me feel like a writer.

When my book is published, I'll call myself an author.

I think you're a "writer" when you feel like one, by your own definition. I can't see much point in using other people's definitions as there is no standard, but if someone tells me that they're a writer then that's how THEY define themself. Good for them. Writing is central to how they see themselves and I'm fine with that, whatever it is they write.

As to other professional definitions, I don't think you can or should apply the same standard to artists. There is a set body of standards and procedures that most people agree are necessary for physicians, dentists, lawyers, teachers, contractors, mechanics etc. We hire them to do a job based on their having met those standards. Art is far more subjective, and in many cases a matter of opinion. I went to a museum of modern art a few years ago and saw an exhibit made of ropes coiled on the ground, another of tie-died pillow cases ( hung next to medievil tapestries) and another of old doors that had been splattered from paint cans thrown from a second floor. As they say, one persons art is another ones garbage.

TrainofThought
07-23-2007, 08:11 AM
At what point does a person become entitled to credibly claim that she/he is a writer? By which I mean, is there --or should there be-- a definitive line or set of criteria which differentiates those who are, from those who say they are?

If the answer is affirmative, then what exactly are those criteria? Publication? Money? Both? None of the above?

I would think it likely that most of us have encountered individuals who simply do not have the abiity to write a coherent English sentence, but if they determinedly string several hundred thousand of them together, does doing so automatically confer upon them the title of "writer"? And if not, who has the right to decide? I believe a person is entitled to credibly claim s/he is a writer when they are paid for their writing, prior to that you are a WIP.

You could call yourself a writer that’s your prerogative. There are many people on this board who claim they write for themselves and don’t care if they publish they love to write. I would consider writing to be a hobby for these people. Again, everyone has a right to decide whether s/he are a writer. The same goes for painting, drawing, it’s an individual choice whether you use the title ‘artist’; however, it doesn’t mean the rest of the world views you the same way.

blacbird
07-23-2007, 08:49 AM
Semantics. Who cares? What should matter is the writing, the thing produced, the story, not the title ascribed to the person who wrote it.

caw

maestrowork
07-23-2007, 08:58 AM
In sports, an amateur is someone who has never been paid to play the game; a professional is someone who has received monetary compensation to perform their sport.

Yes. I think some people have a problem with the term "amateur" because of the connotation of "not very good; not talented enough." Of course, that's not really the idea. I would go to Birol's definition. That's how they call athletes -- they must be of amateur status to compete in the Olympics, for example. Clearly no one is saying "they're not very good."

maestrowork
07-23-2007, 09:05 AM
Semantics. Who cares? What should matter is the writing, the thing produced, the story, not the title ascribed to the person who wrote it.

caw

It's important to those who are serious about writing to call themselves writers. "I am a writer, too -- I scribble something now and then, and have always wanted to write a novel but haven't really started on it" leaves a bad taste to many serious writers (whether they're published or not) who live and breathe the craft.

My actor friends feel the same way about people who casually call themselves "actors" when all they did was high school musicals. I think they feel that the casual proclamation cheapens their dedication and efforts in calling "acting" their profession. Basically, to them, if anyone who's acted in front of their camcorders call themselves "actors" it's an insult... And certainly I can understand that resentment as these people work very hard on their craft to make it their profession.

So again, I think that I would only call myself a writer when I feel that I'm dedicating to the craft -- learning it, perfecting it, getting read. Being paid for it would make me a professional writer, but I shouldn't being a "writer" for granted either.

Inky
07-23-2007, 10:09 AM
I believe people are approaching the term "professional" from different perspectives.

In many areas, a "professional" is someone who has been paid to practice their craft, such as sports, sex, or music. In others, "professional" refers to someone who is licensed or certified, such as engineers or accountants.

Since inked09102 is in accounting, I assume she's more accustomed to thinking of professionals as someone who is certified or licensed than she is to thinking of a professional as someone who performs a task for money or to make a living. Thus, in her world, one can be paid to complete a task and still not be a professional and yet, by the other definition, not be an amateur either.

No, no. Misunderstanding. Used to be in accounting, and quite accidentally. I have a head for numbers, but with money, not math books--go figure. And I've the gift of gab, which makes me excell in public relations. So, I continuously found myself in charge of money and communications between corporate home office and whichever location I found myself at; and in charge of dealing first hand with vendors (because I was anal about getting them paid).

Considered myself professional? In conduct and in getting the job done. In knowledge? Oh, hell no. I went to work EVERY single day feeling like a fraud. I would shrug it off with the excuse: they knew what they were getting themselves into when they hired a non-academic in this field.

Writing? When someone comes up to me, loves my book, gushes over a character they've identified with, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop-- because I'm self published. Oooh yeah...there it is. But you know, PA turned it into such a dirty word/rep...it's not all as horrific as what many trump self publishing to be. And not all of us are any less professional just because we chose this route. Please make sure you ask me my reasons before you attack my choice, as seems to be the norm by several here on AW regarding self publishing...the answer may shake you up a bit.

Amateur vs professional; It's all about personal opinion; however, I would never ask someone: are you published? And when they reply no, state: oh, then you're not a professional writer. It just comes across as arrogant and shooting that person down.

ps
the first portion of this, regarding the misunderstanding & explaination of my accounting career is answering Birol, but the rest is just addressed to any in general.
Birol, you rock....I don't want this sounding like I'm coming at you just because I copy/pasted your quote. (hugs)

Medievalist
07-23-2007, 10:17 AM
A fair number of y'all have an awfully narrow definition of "writer" and "writing."

It's not just fiction. There's text all around you; look at it. It all comes from writers, and, more often than not, they were paid.

Inky
07-23-2007, 10:24 AM
A fair number of y'all have an awfully narrow definition of "writer" and "writing."

It's not just fiction. There's text all around you; look at it. It all comes from writers, and, more often than not, they were paid.
Huh. Good point. I've become 'friends' with another AWer who's quite gifted at creating greeting cards. And another who--bless his heart--writes those drole How To manuals. Thanks. You're absolutely right.

Birol
07-23-2007, 10:53 AM
A fair number of y'all have an awfully narrow definition of "writer" and "writing."

It's not just fiction. There's text all around you; look at it. It all comes from writers, and, more often than not, they were paid.

When I was a know-it-all teenager, and my parents first learned I wanted to be a writer, they would often say, "But how will you earn a living?" To which I would respond, "Everything you read has to be written by somebody."

Inky
07-23-2007, 11:18 AM
When I was a know-it-all teenager, and my parents first learned I wanted to be a writer, they would often say, "But how will you earn a living?" To which I would respond, "Everything you read has to be written by somebody."
A fiesty teen. Love it. GREAT answer. Sounds like something my own teen would say.

benbradley
07-23-2007, 06:03 PM
To label an unpublished writer as an amateur is a harsh assumption.
The word amateur CAN have a negative/derisive connotation when meant as someone who isn't fully capable of doing a job, but that's certainly not the only meaning. Amateur radio operators are licensed by the FCC, have a minimum amount of technical knowledge (some have much more knowledge and design their own equipment), and do it for personal enjoyment.
Of course an unpublished writer is an amateur. Amateur means not having been paid for it yet. Doesn't it?
Yes, I think that's yet another meaning of amateur.
I have been paid for writing, in fact I am every month but would still consider myself basically an amateur because I write more as a hobby than a career.
The word amateur comes from some word (Amare? French and/or Latin? I'm lucky if I know two words of a non-English language!) meaning love, and that's certainly one meaning, someone who does something for the love of it.

So a professional who loves his/her work could be called an amateur.:D

Medievalist
07-23-2007, 08:45 PM
The word amateur comes from some word (Amare? French and/or Latin? I'm lucky if I know two words of a non-English language!) meaning love, and that's certainly one meaning, someone who does something for the love of it.

So a professional who loves his/her work could be called an amateur.:D

Except, while that's a valid etymology--and the etymology is telling--the real issue is the way the word is actually used, and understood.

And it mostly is used and understood as not-professional-not serious-not for money.

Yet many many people are superb writers though they are not paid for their writing.

For instance, most scholarly writing is not really paid writing. It's assumed that you will publish by many departments and universities, but you're not always specifically rewarded for publishing, nor do scholarly academic journals pay, nor are humanities scholars who write books always given an advance.

Birol
07-23-2007, 08:47 PM
Barbarique, you seem to like quoting dictionaries and thesauruses, but there's nothing in that definition that hasn't already been said. Without additional context or to back up a point, what's the purpose?

Birol
07-23-2007, 09:12 PM
Writing? When someone comes up to me, loves my book, gushes over a character they've identified with, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop-- because I'm self published. Oooh yeah...there it is. But you know, PA turned it into such a dirty word/rep...it's not all as horrific as what many trump self publishing to be. And not all of us are any less professional just because we chose this route. Please make sure you ask me my reasons before you attack my choice, as seems to be the norm by several here on AW regarding self publishing...the answer may shake you up a bit.

There are many valid reasons to self-publish and I would like to think that the majority of individuals on AW do know and recognize what they are -- if they sometimes forget them.

That's not to say there isn't often a stigma associated with self-publishing, but I wouldn't blame PA for it. It comes more from the ease with which printers have made self-publishing available and the sheer number of individuals who choose to have a book printed rather than having it vetted by commercial publishers because <insert a number of ego or vanity reasons.>

Amateur vs professional; It's all about personal opinion;

Well, no. It's not. There's some pretty clear definitions and boundaries between amateur and professional. Really, there are. None of those definitions have anything to do with the difference between self-publishing and commercial publishing, though.

however, I would never ask someone: are you published? And when they reply no, state: oh, then you're not a professional writer. It just comes across as arrogant and shooting that person down.

Well, yes, if someone were to walk up to you on the street and say something like that, it would be rude, but the point of this thread is to explore the boundaries, the gray areas, of what it is to be a writer. It's not the first time this question has been raised on this board and it won't be the last. In truth, it's a question that doesn't have an answer, but I understand how taking it out and turning it over from time to time helps people to gain perspective and serves as a reminder that there are many different types of writers out there, at many different levels, who write for many different reasons.

Birol, you rock....I don't want this sounding like I'm coming at you just because I copy/pasted your quote. (hugs)

Thank you.

Inky
07-23-2007, 09:19 PM
Thanks, Birol, for daring to stand up and clear up some of the grey regarding self publishing. Trust me, it wasn't one of those overnight jobs; nor was it under the guise of: well, I'll just do this and bamm! I'm an author! And I do still seek traditional agents/publishers. I won't feel like I've 'arrived' until that dream has been fulfilled.

I'm very very very grateful for the wondermous people I've 'met' here on AW, and their support of my decision to self publish w/o shooting me down that somehow, I've failed in this world of the written word.

kb

rugcat
07-23-2007, 09:20 PM
Except, while that's a valid etymology--and the etymology is telling--the real issue is the way the word is actually used, and understood.

And it mostly is used and understood as not-professional-not serious-not for money.Isn't that a fairly recent etymological phenomonon? As recently as the 30's and 40's, "amateur" was used in a positive sense, esp, in sports, as in one who did things purely for the love of them. "Professional" was a slightly pejorative term, as in those who do it for money are somehow less worthy and slightly crass. Maybe from the English upper class sensibilities?

maestrowork
07-23-2007, 09:25 PM
My observation is that words do have meanings, but sometimes they're not black and white, even their definitions are murky depending on how people use them ("who wrote this?" vs. "who is the writer of this?") Also, much of the debate on "writer vs. non-writer" or "amateur vs. professional" seems to stem from insecurity, as I observe. There's some kind of "who are you calling an amateur" or "how could you call yourself a writer if you have not published or get paid for it..." etc. going on, and somehow people can get offended by the connotation, and become defensive. There are those who take writing very seriously as a profession and don't want the term to be taken casually, and there are those who feel denigrated because in their minds they are writers because they write -- that should be good enough reason to justify the term.

My thought is that there isn't really, like, a club or something you need to qualify to get into. And there's nothing wrong with being an amateur (or professional, for that matter) or if you're not published or don't care about being published. To me, it really is a matter of mindset. You are what you are -- you don't get to pretend. So you are a writer, you are, no matter what other people say.

So go out there and write something. :)

Kate Thornton
07-23-2007, 10:07 PM
I am a lot of things.
I once was a soldier.
This fall - when I will no longer be an engineer (yippee!) - I will still be an entrepreneur, a writer, and a raconteur. I will still be a lot of things. Some of them, like "disabled" are things I'd rather not be, and I tend not to limit or define myself by them.

I will enjoy my personal and professional roles and identities as I have in the past. I have been a writer for a while - since about 1995 or so, I think. I have been published - for money! - since 1998. I think I'll be a writer for a long time.

Tiger
07-24-2007, 03:33 AM
I write--and am published--regularly. I never aspired to be a writer or went through any especial training to become one. Rather, I fell into it out of necessity for the sake of a publication that I helped start. Whatever writing I do is ancillary to my main work.

I do not call writing my profession, but I will include it as a tool in my professional kit. "Writer" is something I would call myself in answer to the question, "is there one in the house?"

Sarashay
07-25-2007, 07:30 AM
I am a writer because if I don't write at least something each day, I get cranky and unpleasant. Much of it is not published or even publishable, but it has to come out of me, whether it's pen to page or keyboard to screen.

I'm sorry if this offends your professional sensibilities, but that is where it stands for me.

MacAllister
07-25-2007, 09:19 AM
Look -- we're all here because we're writers. We're all in different stages of that state of being. Some of us are just starting to try to figure it out, how it works, and what we still need to learn. Some of us are earning a living selling our words. Most of us are in the wide spectrum between those poles.

Writers write. The fifteen year old kid who writes stories and poetry in his journal and hasn't ever submitted anything -- and may never choose to do so -- but words, and putting those words on paper, matters to him? He's a writer. He's every bit as much a writer as I am. The guy who scribbles the shopping list? I've yet to ever hear that guy claim the word as part of his own identity.

I'm mystified as to how it's supposed to somehow take anything away from me to acknowledge that hypothetical kid as a writer, and a kindred spirit. It doesn't cheapen what it means to be a writer one single bit. Rather, it enhances, enriches, and provides complexity to the meaning.

SpookyWriter
07-25-2007, 09:33 AM
SnipMac, ole buddy.

We're artisans.

The arts are nothing like conventional craftsmen; take any craft which people do to entertain, amuse, delight or frustrate and it becomes more than a symbolic gesture.

Story tellers, we are, and every kid or adult knows at least one tall-tale from their youth.

I imagine the art of telling a tall story is so ingrained into our psych that most people accept the lie as truth, when spoken or written convincingly.

Gosh Mac, I remember the time you took me horse back riding and I discovered a trail a couple miles away that led up to an old shack that hadn't been lived in for fifty years or so.

You hadn't been there before and we had a great time just looking around. Don't you remember?

Story telling is not just writing to publish, but much more and almost everyone tells and tall tell once in their lives.

Now if they just wrote it down and had a few friends read it then they would be writers?

Birol
07-25-2007, 09:35 AM
This thread did start out to be a re-examination of "what is a writer." I'm not certain how that turned into "you have to be a professional writer before you're a real writer," because that's not something I agree with.

As Mac just indicated, we all start somewhere and we all start with different goals, different aspirations, different purposes. None of those goals, purposes, or aspirations are any more or less valid than any other.

I've said before that there are as many different paths to being a writer as their are writers. Still, whatever path we choose, someone has walked it before us, blazing the trail and showing the way.

SpookyWriter
07-25-2007, 09:41 AM
P.S. Did I ever tell you the time when Stalin and I were talking about social reforms in Russia?

SpookyWriter
07-25-2007, 09:48 AM
This thread did start out to be a re-examination of "what is a writer."Semantics. That's what it is all about. We're story tellers, and writing our stories down is the mechanics of a craft. Before writing to publish became the norm, I would say the oral story was what counted most. The acceptance of "industry standards" for telling a story is what drives the market today.

But I can sit in a pub and weave a story that people will believe and ask "Did that really happen?"

The point of being a writer is telling a good story that makes people think; question, wonder, laugh, cry, or whatever. But the story is only a small part of writing so that the reader understands or appreciates what they are reading.

The mechanics of writing a good story is not the same as telling a good story. But as writers, we as story tellers, must learn how these elements of fiction are used effectively.

I can lie, but can I write?

Ziljon
07-25-2007, 10:17 AM
http://www.tvgasm.com/newsgasm/images/gameshows/2006/shatner.jpg
is a writer.

pepperlandgirl
07-25-2007, 10:47 AM
http://www.tvgasm.com/newsgasm/images/gameshows/2006/shatner.jpg
is a writer.

I hope you're not disparaging my captain! (http://content.answers.com/main/content/wp/en/thumb/9/9f/250px-JamesKirkTiberious.jpg)

My-Immortal
07-25-2007, 11:08 AM
Well....if I'm not a writer, then I must be spending a couple of thousand hours every year just typing...

:)

Take care all -

Tiger
07-26-2007, 12:33 AM
Look -- we're all here because we're writers. We're all in different stages of that state of being. Some of us are just starting to try to figure it out, how it works, and what we still need to learn. Some of us are earning a living selling our words. Most of us are in the wide spectrum between those poles.

Writers write. The fifteen year old kid who writes stories and poetry in his journal and hasn't ever submitted anything -- and may never choose to do so -- but words, and putting those words on paper, matters to him? He's a writer. He's every bit as much a writer as I am. The guy who scribbles the shopping list? I've yet to ever hear that guy claim the word as part of his own identity.

I'm mystified as to how it's supposed to somehow take anything away from me to acknowledge that hypothetical kid as a writer, and a kindred spirit. It doesn't cheapen what it means to be a writer one single bit. Rather, it enhances, enriches, and provides complexity to the meaning.

What she said.

I guess this was why I initially (not anymore) had a problem with the "Stupid Things Non-Writers Say" thread.

After reading this thread, I'm thinking that maybe I shouldn't worry so much about getting into someone else's area by calling myself "writer" now and again.

I have this habit of composing long, personal letters; handwritten--using fountain pen that was a graduation gift. Now, I'm feeling that this defines me more as a writer than does being published...

Tiger
07-26-2007, 01:10 AM
Mine is your standard Montblanc 149 with a desk stand... My one, truly pretentious possession. :)

Tiger
07-26-2007, 11:44 PM
Aha, an affectation! Well, you're a writer for sure. ;)

P.S. Do you smoke a pipe?

Hah. Used to smoke a pipe. Meerschaum, with a face carved in the front. I also own a circa 1927 Underwood.

In my own defense, I affected these things before I ever had any literary delusions :).

Tiger
07-27-2007, 12:28 AM
(Cough-cough) I say...!

Oberon
07-27-2007, 01:39 AM
I am not ashamed of being old, so as to fountain pens, I can remember when that was all there was. We bought fountain pens and ink bottles, and there were these holes in our desks where you put the bottle so it wouldn't spill - Hah! Girls seemed to like green ink for some reason, boys seemed to like getting it all over everything. Blue fingers, blue stains on desks and clothes and floors. I was fascinated by the girls who made little circles instead of dots for their i's. From the homophone, Little Orphan Annie. My first creative writer instructor at Antioch always started with the question, "What is a writer?" We struggled to come up with some erudite and meaningful defs. His was straight out of Webster's: "One who writes." Now I will creak away to my yellow pad and Uni-Ball.

Tiger
07-27-2007, 01:47 AM
Welcome, Oberon.

Wasn't there something about girls' pigtails and ink bottles?

I don't want to be one of those guys, sitting on his porch, lamenting: "wouldja look at that? Give me the good old days when a man carried a club and had a brain the size of a walnut!"

Still, I'd say that everything from spelling, to penmanship--even deciphering handwritten prose--has suffered from the advent of the wordprocessor. I'm thinking that cursive may end up being the secret code with which kids pass notes in class.

Kate Thornton
07-27-2007, 02:23 AM
http://www.sff.net/people/katethornton/pen pelikan.jpgLol! I used to write with a fountain pen - a lovely blue one I bought with my very first check for a published story.

But ask anyone who has trouble holding a fork, much less anything as delicate as a pen - hurrah for the keyboard, the technological equivalent of my miracle drugs, allowing me to live life as a writer.

Novelhistorian
07-27-2007, 02:43 AM
No, because then it becomes about other people's judgment of your writing. Your passion for writing, and the act of writing, is not subservient to someone "who knows better." Art doesn't work that way. The artist makes art, and the writer writes a story. The act is the thing. What becomes of the finished project is incidental to the artist's motivation and inspiration.

I never enjoy telling people, "I'm a writer," for the belittlement mentioned above. But I control how I define my life. No one else.


Amen.

pconsidine
07-27-2007, 02:59 AM
I think you're a "writer" when you feel like one, by your own definition. I can't see much point in using other people's definitions as there is no standard...[.]This comes the closest to my own definition, which is best summed up thusly:

If you have to ask, then you're not one.

Medievalist
07-27-2007, 07:59 AM
Mine is your standard Montblanc 149 with a desk stand... My one, truly pretentious possession. :)

Namiki Retractable, and Parker Sonnet.

veinglory
07-27-2007, 08:03 AM
I just spent most of a royalty check on a Mont Blanc (basic model). But I'm planning to give it to Mom because I never write by hand :)

So I guess I am a typer (!)

Tiger
07-27-2007, 08:10 AM
Love my Namiki... Great for sketching too.

pconsidine
07-27-2007, 08:29 AM
I used to be a huge Rotring fan. They used to have these big hexagonal shaped fountain pens made out of stainless steel. They weighed a ton but the nib was so smooth and fine that you hardly noticed that you were writing with an anvil.

Until you dropped it on your foot, that is.

Tiger
07-27-2007, 08:33 AM
Those things had stiff nibs... You're right about not letting the thing hit your foot... It'd STICK.

CoriSCapnSkip
07-27-2007, 01:48 PM
Any one who writes is a writer.

True! Meaning anyone who writes is qualified to say, "I'm a writer." They can't truthfully say, "I am a professional writer" unless they are paid for it.

Oberon
07-29-2007, 07:13 AM
My first year at Antioch College (mourn it's loss) the creative writing prof. asked, "What is a writer?" We went through most of the above definitions, trying to be wise and insightful. Next class he said, "Look in your dictionaries. A writer is one who writes." I think we further define that, as, a professional writer, who gets paid for what she or he writes, regardless of what it is. A person who in the course of whatever employment she has is required to write something more than a letter or a list of products, etc. can claim to be a writer, but not a professional writer. A person who has been published is an author. That's what I would like to be.

CreativityWorks
07-30-2007, 05:38 PM
Kurt Cobain in his suicide note wrote that he felt guilty about not being into his music and passionately performing for his fans. He seems to have killed himself because he did not feel he was living up to what he felt his fans deserved of him.. his committment to his craft was lacking as he filled stadiums for concerts. Does that make Kurt Cobain not a musician?

How you feel about what you do is what defines who you are. If making money makes you feel like a writer and you earn a buck writing, rest assured that individual feels like a writer.

If being acknowledged as one who crafts a phrase as perfect as a string of pearls is more important to you, and you cannot accomplish it, then you will never feel like you are a good enough... regardless of how much money it earns you.

Dave.C.Robinson
07-30-2007, 07:44 PM
A writer writes.

I write, I am a writer.

On the one hand, I have never been professionally published in either Science Fiction or Fantasy. I've had short stories rejected, and one novel which is in a holding pattern at a publisher.

By that standard, some might say I'm not a writer.

I once wrote a screenplay that was used by a small film school in the curriculum for their acting class.

I spent one summer working as a game designer. The game was never published, it was work for hire, but I went to the office every day wrote the rules and paid my rent with the money I got for it.

I wrote a number of movie and game reviews for the web; got paid for that too.

Some of those who previously might have said I wasn't a writer would now say I am.

I haven't changed. I'm still a writer. Being a writer is something that's defined by the action of writing. It doesn't matter whether anyone identifies me as a writer, though it's a good term to use, what matters is that I can be described as one based on my actions.

The term's as much a descriptor as an identifier.

A writer writes.

Sarashay
07-31-2007, 01:03 AM
I think one thing that gets missed when comparing writers to doctors, lawers, mechanics, etc. (as several have done) is the REASON you can't just go around calling yourself a member of those sorts of professions without a license to back you up.

It's a question of consequences.

If somebody fixes a car and doesn't know what he's doing, it can damage the car to the point that it can never run again.

If somebody files a legal brief and doesn't know the law properly, the results can be anything from fines to jail time.

And if someone practices medicine and isn't fully competent, the results can be dire, or even fatal.

This is why we have degrees, why we have examinations, why we have licenses, to make sure that people can do what they say they can.

As for writing, particularly fiction writing--face it, a bad novel may be unpleasant, but it isn't permanently damaging. This is true for all kinds of artistic expression and it is the reason that anybody can go around calling themselves an Artist or a Musician . . . or a Writer.

If you write, you are a writer. If you get paid enough for your writing to sustain yourself, you are a professional writer. That is the only real difference.

Sarashay
07-31-2007, 03:26 AM
I beg to disagree. The lamentable (as I see it) quality of current fiction is a direct result of so many low-grade novels being foisted off on the reading public. Junk, to put it kindly.


Yes, but can bad novel-writers be sued for malpractice? ;)

readlorey
07-31-2007, 04:28 AM
Though I do not support myself as a writer (yet) I consider myself a writer. I write, and edit, for Issues Magazine.

I have been writing for a long time and even received a contributor copy for an article I wrote for some rag in New York.

The point I'm making is this: it's not what anyone else thinks. It only matters to me what I think and I am a writer.

There you go, my two bits! :D

Birol
07-31-2007, 04:38 AM
I beg to disagree. The lamentable (as I see it) quality of current fiction is a direct result of so many low-grade novels being foisted off on the reading public. Junk, to put it kindly.

You know, I hear an awful lot of people talking about the bad books being written today and the bad movies being made. I heard the same talk ten years ago. If I'd actually listened to the adults' conversations, the same things were probably being said twenty years ago, too. People wonder why the standards aren't the same as they used to be, why they aren't writing books that are as good as Left Hand of Darkness or making movies like The African Queen today.

The thing is, all the entertainment wasn't "good," back then either. It's just that only the "good" works endured long enough to be enjoyed by future generations. Just because something didn't endure past it's time, though, doesn't mean it wasn't enjoyed by the people who received it or that it wasn't good by the standards of its day.

Dave.C.Robinson
07-31-2007, 04:57 AM
Ninety percent of everything is always crap. That applies to published novels too. One person's favorite book of all time is another person's unreadable pile of steaming sea lion doodoo.

As I said before, a writer writes.

Just as an aside, I have to say that I find the term "wannabe" to be at best insulting and at worst offensive. Anyone who can put their butt in the chair and regularly write deserves something better than that.

scarletpeaches
07-31-2007, 05:06 AM
And aspiring. I hate that word. You either do something or you don't - it's a waste of time to say you aspire to it. You're a writer or you're not; no half-measures.

Birol
07-31-2007, 05:08 AM
Just as an aside, I have to say that I find the term "wannabe" to be at best insulting and at worst offensive. Anyone who can put their butt in the chair and regularly write deserves something better than that.

How about we use the term "up and coming" instead?

Sarashay
07-31-2007, 05:25 AM
You know, I hear an awful lot of people talking about the bad books being written today and the bad movies being made. I heard the same talk ten years ago. If I'd actually listened to the adults' conversations, the same things were probably being said twenty years ago, too. People wonder why the standards aren't the same as they used to be, why they aren't writing books that are as good as Left Hand of Darkness or making movies like The African Queen today.

The thing is, all the entertainment wasn't "good," back then either. It's just that only the "good" works endured long enough to be enjoyed by future generations. Just because something didn't endure past it's time, though, doesn't mean it wasn't enjoyed by the people who received it or that it wasn't good by the standards of its day.

Exactly! I see this a lot with musicians who pine for the music of previous decades. They seem to forget that even though you can hear, say, Elvis Costello's earlier work on 'alternative' radio stations quite regularly now, you only heard it on tiny little college stations back when it was actually released. Meanwhile, on the commercial radio stations, you'd hear endless replays of "The Pina Colada Song".

Crap fades over time (or, at best, becomes kitsch). Quality endures.

rwam
07-31-2007, 07:21 AM
No, you just think you are. Perhaps you're confusing the endeavor, the actual act of doing the writing, with the end product, the actual part of being a writer.


Wasted energy does not a writer make. I'm always fascinated by the notion that by turning on a word processor and beating your forehead against a keyboard long enough earns anyone the right to call themselves anything, let alone a writer.


The best way to identify yourself with the craft is to have your work published and/or paid for. It's as simple as that. And even then you had better accumulate a sizable body of work before anyone who knows better will call you a writer with a straight face.


So, even though I go golfing twice a week, but haven't won a dime....I'm not a golfer? Hmmm....I think I have to disagree with your logic, my friend. I'm leaning more towards Maestro's way of thinking.

WriterInChains
07-31-2007, 09:50 PM
How about we use the term "up and coming" instead?

Nice. I like "emerging" too. :)



Regarding the "straight face" comment quoted above: if someone smirks when I say I'm a writer, it says more about them than it does about me. I don't list my publication credits for them, or how much I've been paid for writing. I just smile and let them change the subject (and feel a little pity for them, but that's beside the point of this thread). They can call me anything they want: what anyone else thinks of me is really none of my business. :)

Tiger
08-01-2007, 02:04 AM
Ninety percent of everything is always crap.

I agree... And this includes 90% of what good writers write. That's why we edit :)

Seriously, there wouldn't be anything good or middlin' without the crap. This is why I, for one, celebrate the existence of crap.

Hail, Crap!

scarletpeaches
08-01-2007, 06:21 AM
Pardon me, but I've written a steaming pile of doo-doo in my time, and I'm certainly not American.

Crap is universal, I'll have you know.

Tiger
08-01-2007, 07:27 AM
1. Isn't it called something else in Scotland?
2. Yah, sure... As if you could write anything steamy (did it sound like James Doohan)

sealy
08-01-2007, 08:00 AM
I didn't actually feel like a writer until I was actually paid for writing. Nonetheless, I always called myself a writer, first.

As I edited other's work, I still didn't consider myself worthy enough to be a writer. I couldn't even describe a sunset, for God's sake!

What happened to me:

I started out with a love of writing and a few skills from a family of teachers, editors and writers. I was hoping to insinuate myself into writing-intensive i.e., advertising agencies, newspapers, magazines, publishers, I naturally accepted a secretarial position at an insurance agency. ("Mrs. Smith. You have to start somewhere!")*

Anyway, once I declared myself a writer, I then looked for writing jobs, not secretarial ones, then got paid for writing for other people. The point is: I named it then claimed it.





*Yeah, right. I just typed 107 words per minute. Okay? Save the caveat. Give me a job!

badducky
08-02-2007, 07:42 AM
i think you're all completely wrong, and i have the weblink to prove it:

http://phone.people.yahoo.com/py/psPhoneSearch.py?srch=bas&D=1&FirstName=&LastName=writer&City=&State=&Phone=&Search=Phone+and+Address+Search

swvaughn
08-02-2007, 08:06 AM
Kurt Cobain in his suicide note wrote that he felt guilty about not being into his music and passionately performing for his fans. He seems to have killed himself because he did not feel he was living up to what he felt his fans deserved of him.. his committment to his craft was lacking as he filled stadiums for concerts. Does that make Kurt Cobain not a musician?

How you feel about what you do is what defines who you are. If making money makes you feel like a writer and you earn a buck writing, rest assured that individual feels like a writer.

If being acknowledged as one who crafts a phrase as perfect as a string of pearls is more important to you, and you cannot accomplish it, then you will never feel like you are a good enough... regardless of how much money it earns you.

Well, crud. Now I have to blow my brains out.

Damned artists *grumble grumble*