Earlier on today, I was told I'm not a writer. This surprised me, because I've been writing for a long time now. Scripts, prose, comics, blogs, even the odd poem. The point was then clarified. "You're not a writer, you're a dude who writes, and writes well." While I appreciate the compliment, it still didn't ring true with me. I asked what the difference was. The answer given was as follows:- "For one, the grand total of books of writings of yours published by a major publisher is...?"
Ah, so to be a writer, you have to be published by a major publisher, or at least getting paid to write. Otherwise, you're just someone who writes.
No. Wrong. I may not get paid to do it at the moment, but I am definitely a writer. Now, I'll be honest, there are a lot of people out there who claim to be writers, but aren't. A lot of people who label themselves writers only write the occasional blog, maybe once a month, in which most of the words they use more closely resemble a random number spat out by a calculator, and end every sentence with the non-word "LOLZ". These people, despite their claims, are not writers.
So what does make a writer? Well, it's probably subjective, and I bet you'd get a different answer from any writer you asked. For me though, it boils down to a few key points. First of all, commitment. A writer lives and breathes writing. When they're not writing, they want to be writing. Sometimes it's hard, yes. When you're not getting paid to write, and also have to work a nine to five job, finding the time to write, or even the will, can be tough. But a true writer will do it. I try and find some time to write every day. Even if I only get ten minutes of writing time, I make sure I've written something every day. Sure, the next day I may delete everything I've written the previous day, but I still did it. I still wrote. If you can't be bothered to put the effort in, then you're not a writer.
Another key point is a basic grasp of the language you choose to write in. In my case, that would be English. I'm not saying I don't make mistakes. I do. I get the spelling and the grammar wrong, I choose the wrong words, I write shit that sometimes just doesn't make sense. But I don't stick numbers in words. I don't use that most dreaded of things, text speak. There are so many bloggers out there whose blogs I just can't read because their butchery of the English language, which can be quite beautiful at times, is so absolute as to render the entire thing nonsensical. If you can't use language, you're not a writer. A writer needs to be understood by readers.
And there's the other main point of my argument. Why is someone who isn't getting paid to write not a writer, but someone who reads without getting paid to do it is a reader? Likewise, I play computer games a lot. I don't get paid for it. I am a gamer. My sister's fiance, Chris, plays the drums. He doesn't get paid to do it. He's still a drummer. I can go on, though I don't think I need to. If all of those are true, then why is it not true of writing?
There is a difference between being a writer and being a paid writer, but the thing they both have in common is that they are both writers. I've been fortunate to speak to some very good writers in my time, who have been paid to write, as well as knowing others who have done the same. There are plenty of writers out there who get paid to do it, who are happy to give advice to the rest of us. Neil Gaiman, Peter David and Stephen King are all known to give advice to the people they meet who tell them they're writers, and who try to help them out. They don't turn around and say "Have you been published? Because if you haven't, you're not a writer."
It's actually the words of Orson Scott Card which spring to mind now. If you meet him and tell him you're a writer, he will always respond by asking "Are you?" If you respond hesitantly, mumble about not being published or have any reaction other than "Yes, I am", then you're not a writer, so I suppose it's also a mental thing.
It's not about being published though, it's about writing. I write. So, am I a writer?
Yes. I am.