The problem with calling yourself a writer is that the amount of money you earn doing it determines whether or not you will be taken seriously. The perception is that we writers live this kick-back lifestyle strolling aimlessly along the beach searching for inspiration. Or maybe we have a cabin near a lake where we frequently sequester ourselves and write against a backdrop of birds chirping and the splitter-splattering of rain against the window panes. We lack discipline, work when they feel like it, and don't have much direction or ambition. If we are not New York Times best-selling authors (or Oprah Book Club selections--kinda the same thing), or we're not published in newspapers and nationwide magazines, or we don't have a master's degree in fine arts from a prestigious writing program, then who will believe that we are any good at what we do?
Truth is, writing is a tough grind. Making a living at it requires a skill set that includes the writing itself, editing, creativity, research skills, marketing, advertising, sales, communication, flexibility, being extremely disciplined and self-directed, working well under pressure, being incredibly organized (more or less), and must be able to play well with others. It certainly is not for the thin-skinned nor the faint of heart. It is a craft that must be honed as it constantly evolves. Writers often have a day job, or at least supplement their literary pursuits with author visits, speaking engagements, and freelance work. I heard a real estate broker say once that the people who are the most successful in real estate are the ones who show up the most, not necessarily the ones who are the best or the brightest. Therefore, it is imperative to keep improving your craft and keep showing up for yourself.
When I decided to take the plunge into writing last summer, I got a mixed response from folks in my immediate circle. I had gone back to school and completed my B.S. in Sports Management in three years topped off with obtaining a professional certification. When it was all over, I was burnt like toast. Aside from sporadic posting on my blog Journeys Fitness, I had no other outlets to share my experiences and the vast amount of knowledge I was acquiring. Several years ago, I had two articles published in a fledgling regional magazine. I knew then that I would find a way to return to writing. My passions are diverse and I become a student of whatever it is that I am trying to do. So, rather than talk the ears off of anyone and everyone who was within earshot about my latest adventure, I decided to champion my causes using the written word. Seven titles (with three more on the way), three blogs, steady paid freelance work, and a new business later, I am definitely in a groove. The best thing I ever did was ignore the naysayers and not let myself be discouraged.
So, if you want to write, then write. Don't worry about those snobs who have made the colossal error of judging you while in transition. No one comes out of the womb cranking out works that will appear in this century's literary canon. No one. We all have to start at the beginning. Often times the people who give you the most flack about your writing are people who either want what you have or are afraid of losing what they have. And let's face it--every book that you have ever read has been written by somebody who had some jerk tell them (either by words or deeds) that it couldn't be done. Resilience and persistence pays. Get a good editor and/or someone honest with a good eye and apply their critiques. Make every piece you create better than the last. Remember, if you do the work, you will earn the right to call yourself whatever you want. Write on!