The other day I had a random conversation with a person I had just met. I am wracking my brain to remember who the person even was but I can’t remember. I think it was a kid. But who the person was is not really relevant to this story. I will just call the person Bob. So Bob asked me what I do. I told him I am a social worker, working mostly with youth at risk, and I am a writer.
As the words “I am a writer” came out of my mouth I immediately wanted to grab them back as they hung there in midair. Bob didn’t notice. But they hung there, and my inner voice shouted loudly, “What?! You are a writer? Since when?” and I did not have an answer. But Bob’s conversation had moved on from that point and I had to catch up. I watched his mouth move as my inner voice continued to grill me on my qualifications, “Your grammar sucks and you can’t even spell!” Thankfully Bob did not interrogate me on my credentials.
Sure, I like to write and I do it quite regularly. But I had never called myself a writer, and it felt awkward. At times, some friends and family have even given me the label “writer” and it felt just as awkward then. But my random outburst to Bob made me think more about what it means to be a writer. I began to wonder at what point a person becomes a writer. I know people who have graduated with degrees as writers, people who I would not necessarily consider writers even though they have a piece of paper that proves they are. Likewise I know people who come by it naturally, people I would consider writers but do not consider themselves writers.
Does a person have to get something published before they can be considered a writer? Or to be a writer does a person merely have to put words together in a beautiful way which moves people; or what about just putting words together? I know, at this stage in my life, I take great joy in writing, and it seems to have become more of a predominant theme in the past few years of my life. But I also enjoy driving, and I do it quite regularly, and that definitely does not make me a racecar driver, though I guess it makes me a driver.
Is a person who randomly puts paint on a canvas a painter? Is a person who can just play the guitar at a mediocre level a musician? I really don’t know. What I do however know is I do not feel comfortable calling myself a writer, and I am still a little confused about why I told Bob I was one. Maybe one day when something I have written has been published, and I am definitely not counting self publishing, then I will be able to confidently call myself a writer; but not now. It’s too weird. For now, I just like to write, and I will continue to do it quite regularly. I am not yet a writer. For now, I am a racecar driver.