I’m a member of far too many Facebook groups that are supposed to be about writing. Early on I removed myself from the promotional ones because they were simply annoying. (Dear self-published writers: marketing to other writers who are also spamming their book covers every day on Facebook is probably not that effective.)
The question in the title of this post comes up from time to time in one or the other writers’ FB groups and it always kinda pisses me off. First of all, it does so because the people asking or the people answering are sometimes contentious boobs whose real purpose is to simply troll or make other people feel bad. (I will never understand how hurting people can be fun.) Secondly, it pisses me off because it’s an unanswerable question and trying to answer it is just going to leave someone hurt or feeling left out.
1 – You’re only a writer if you’d been published.
So, people who write for their own pleasure or catharsis aren’t writers? How about people who have multiple short stories or novels out with agents or publishers while they work on more?
2 – You’re only a writer if you’ve won awards.
This is probably the silliest criteria some people come up with. I suppose it has something to do with #4 below. If you have won awards, you have some external verification of having produced quality art or writing.
3 – You’re only a writer if you write every day.
Tons of professional writers who make a living from their words do not write every day.
4 – You’re only a writer if you write great art and literature, not commercial garbage.
This “rule” about real writers is often dragged out of the depths by people who think they’re some great arteest whose words will probably go down in history like Hemingway or Shakespeare (never mind the fact that Shakespeare definitely wrote commercial fiction for the masses) In most cases, the people who think this are simply wrong.