Defining an Author

As in any group, while there are always a few big egos to be found, I would venture to say that most writers suffer from inferiority complexes. Soul-sucking, self-worth-shrinking doubt. Doubt about our abilities, whether we measure up, whether we have another story in us, whether a single line we write is worth the space it takes on a blank white page. We dismiss, disparage, and diminish our accomplishments, our writing, ourselves. Heck, we even stew over when we earn the right to call ourselves a ‘writer’.

Well, I’ve got news for you. If you write, you’re a writer. Not convinced? If you need a higher authority than me, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an author as “a person who has written something” or even as “a person who starts or creates something”. Tell me that’s not you. If you’re reading this blog, I’d wager that you’ve written something … started or created something.

Let me debunk a few myths from naysayers who resist defining themselves as authors.

Myth #1:

“I’m not published so I’m not a real writer”

Nobody is born a published author. Almost all published authors – even wildly successful ones – suffered their share of rejections on the path to publication. But long before they were published, they were writers. They were authors. Authors waiting to be published.

Myth #2:

“I don’t have time to write regularly, so I’m not a real writer”

Most of us have some combination of jobs, kids, bank loans, housework, associations or other pressing obligations that compete for our limited time. It’s not easy to carve out precious time for writing. It may seem frivolous – dare I say self-indulgent. Sometimes it seems darn near impossible. We lose our way or our priorities; we forget how much we love to write. While I strongly advocate that you banish those thoughts and make time (you won’t find it) for your writing – as it is important, sustaining, life affirming – if you haven’t evolved to that stage yet, it doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. The writer is still there, in you, waiting for the opportunity to burst out unafraid.

Myth #3:

“I dabble, but I never really finish anything, so I’m not a real writer”

To debunk this myth, let me tell you a story about one of my own kids. Jade loved to write. She wandered around the house with her journal flavour of the moment, writing a story-beginning one day and then another the next. For her age, they showed promise, they excited, they left you wanting more. This went on for many years. Great story starters. But only starters. As much as I cajoled, encouraged, or pushed (which I saw as my motherly duty), she would not finish a project. But Jade wrote. She never finished anything, but she wrote. She was an author.

[And for those wondering, Jade finished her first novel last summer and is on her way with her second.]

Myth #4:

“I don’t know what I like to write – I jump genres – so I’m not a real writer”

Screw the genre police! I’ve had both fiction and non-fiction published, for adults and children alike. You don’t need to strap yourself to a single genre. You don’t need to squeeze into a limiting niche if that size doesn’t fit. Explore. In fact, that may well be the best part of being an author.

Myth #5:

“I’m not very good – a critique ripped apart my work – so I’m not a real writer”

The fact that you’re having your work critiqued is the first sign that you’re a bona fides author. Sure, it’s tough to build that alligator-tough skin to withstand the inevitable bruising from our first critique forays, but that bruising adds colour, depth and texture to our work, making it richer, fertile – layer by layer.

An author produces words. Words that tell a story. Sometimes those words turn into sentences and those sentences turn into paragraphs. When you’re lucky they come together to make something magical. Whether it’s a poem, an anecdote, article, short story, novella or a tome. So, defining yourself as an author isn’t that hard after all. Just tell yourself: I write, therefore I am a writer.

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