I will start off the answer to the question “What is a writer?” by using a pretty cliched way of beginning a written piece: with a dictionary definition. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, a writer is:
1. someone whose work is to write books, poems, stories, etc. 2. someone who has written something
Looking at the first definition, I couldn’t help but notice a keyword in it: write. What’s the definition of “write”? Let’s consult Merriam-Webster again:
Write (verb): to form letters or numbers on a surface with a pen, pencil, etc.
: to create (a book, poem, story, etc.) by writing words on paper, on a computer, etc.
: to produce (a written document, agreement, rule, etc.) by writing
According to the above definitions, the basic definition of a writer is someone who writes. I agree with that. If a person sings, she’s a singer. If a person acts, that person is an actor, etc.
Some people take the definition of a writer one step further. Some believe that in order to be a writer, a person has to be published. Maybe they take that definition one step further and see to it that the writer has to score on the New York Times Best Sellers List and have a lucrative contract. If a writer is self-published, then he or she isn’t legit, some say. However, when a celebrity publishes a book, he/she can add “author” to the resume, but not necessarily “writer”. Oh yes, believe it or not, there is a difference in definition between those two terms.
Others think that being a writer is being good with words on paper. That’s true — someone who can’t differentiate a run-on sentence or understand the proper use of a semi-colon will not get far as a writer without training. Yet being good with words on paper is more of a technical thing; if a person’s heart isn’t in it, then he/she isn’t really a writer. I know someone in a writing group who is a very skilled artist and makes a living as a writer and editor, yet she doesn’t consider herself one. Why? Because to her it’s a know-how, not a passion.
So what is a writer to you? You might have mulled over a few of the following questions:
- Do you have a love of the written word?
- Do you have books, publications and authors you admire and want to emulate them?
- Do you get a thrill from putting pen to paper and experience a gush of verbiage flowing from your head to the paper?
- Have you taken writing, editing and publishing courses and strive to do well in them?
- Have you shown your draft to your creative writing professor, members of a writer’s group or an editor for feedback?
- Are you willing to love writing, learn about it and live through the criticism and feedback over and over again?
To me, the answer is a combination of passion, discipline and a continued willingness to learn and improve. One can have the talent, but if he/she doesn’t enjoy that talent or doesn’t practice it every day, then he/she is not a writer. On the other hand, having the talent but not care for it means it’s not his/her calling. Being a writer depends on where the heart is, then whether or not that person is actually writing on a daily basis.