There are certain words in the English language whose meanings are set in stone. Words that have little to no ambiguity, in most situations. Words like ‘lungs,’ or ‘North,’ or ‘diabetes.’ These words have specific meanings that are not really open for debate.
Other words are a bit more malleable.
For example, ‘writer.’ I remember going to a writing conference and hearing someone say, ‘if you write, then you are a writer.’ In the strictest sense of the word, I suppose that’s true, but I think that it diminishes the relationship between many writers and their work.
I don’t have the right to determine who is or isn’t a writer, obviously, but I do feel comfortable sharing why it is that I call myself a writer.
And it certainly has nothing to do with sales. I’ve got three or four books out in the world, under various names, and in an average month, I sell right about at enough to get myself a coffee. One coffee. Thankfully I don’t drink coffee, so I get to use the money for other things. If finances were all that was involved, I’d have to call myself a farmer, since that’s where the majority of my income comes from.
The amount of time that I invest in my activities might have something to do with it. I do make a point of writing every day… most every day. Five out of seven? Anyhow, the point is, I put in time. But even when I’m working a full time job and can’t put in nearly as much time, I still consider myself a writer.
I figured out what made me think of myself as a writer one day after depositing a check from work. The check wasn’t huge, I’ve never had a job that paid a lot, but it was for a couple hundred bucks. Enough to cover rent and a couple of meals. I deposited the money, I went home, I checked online to see if anything had happened with anything I’d published and… something had.
My heart jumped, my breath caught, and I read a five star review on goodreads.
It was not my first five star review, but it was one of the first ones I’d received from somebody I didn’t know. I don’t think they wrote a review of the book, but they gave me five stars. Somebody liked what I’d written.
The book that I’d sold them made me all of a buck sixty. Unless they bought an electronic copy, in which case it was closer to a buck. According to their goodreads profile, more than half of their reviews were five stars. There was no value to what they’d given me, but I was exhilarated! More than exhilarated, I was ecstatic! I had connected to a reader. I had created something, they had picked it up, and they had ingested a little piece of my mind. And they enjoyed it.
I rode that high all day long.
The money for work would let me live and keep a roof over my head, but my writing made me feel whole.
I believe that everybody has something in their life that keeps them sane. We spend most of our time dealing with things that we must, but we all need something that anchors us and helps us define who we are. Whether it’s religion, family, art, work, study, some activity.
For me, it’s writing. I love it. There are parts of being a writer that are difficult and frustrating. There are times when the words don’t come, and when everything I write seems trite or absurd. There are bad days, of course, but writing is more than just a thing I do, it’s a part of who I am.
That’s what I mean when I say that I’m a writer.