I had business cards made up quite some time ago. They show my name, they say “Writer” and show my two blogs, an email address and a phone number. These cards embarrass me now. I would never get cards that say “Lawyer” or “Architect” – why was it OK to get ones that say “Writer” ?
There are those who say that anyone that writes is a “Writer.” That’s bull. That’s the same mindset that says everyone should get a trophy just for showing up. It’s poisonous and devalues the discipline, effort and persistence in achieving a title. Being a “Writer” should mean something.
What does being a “Writer” mean? Do I have to have academic credentials? Do I have to be published? Does self-publishing count?
I don’t think academic credentials are necessary. There are lots of authors I call “Writers” that do not have degrees in literature or MFAs. In fact, I think the MFA mania has led many to call themselves “Writers” when they are not.
I think if you’ve been published, in paper especially, by a “real” publisher (the definition of that will have to wait for another post), you are in the club. You are a “Writer.” You’ve been through a vetting process, a process that is quite selective. Many apply; few are chosen. Most who have the courage to submit and are chosen probably deserve the title. They may order business cards.
Do those who self-publish deserve the title “Writer”? Perhaps the few who have received good reviews from established, competent critics (definitions, definitions…) and have also obtained readers will be accepted into the chosen few. But, sales alone don’t really get you the title: “Writer” (with a capital “W”).
More important than the external signs are the things we cannot see. How many writers (with a small “w”) spend hours at the keyboard, or with pen in hand? How many revise and revise until they get it perfect? How many pore over the thesaurus and dictionary to find just the perfect word? How many actually do the work of a “Writer”? Lawyers, architects – these professions have rigorous entry barriers. The practice of these professions is difficult, requiring discipline and study to keep up with the latest. There’s a difference between these professions and writing (with a small “w”).
So, I need new business cards. What should we call people like me? I’ve written a story or two that people have said they liked. I’ve had a blog post or two that people have said made an impact. But, I’ve never submitted to a publisher, put myself through the evaluation process. I don’t spend hours at the keyboard. I will dash stuff off with no revision – sometimes I barely proofread it – and put it out for the world to bask in my brilliance! What should I put on the new cards? Hack? Pretentious Wanna-Be? Blogger? Writing Hobbyist? writer (with a small “w”)? I’m not sure yet, but I’ll start using the back of the old cards for shopping lists.