I was surfing my account on Agent Query Connect when I found an interesting topic titled “Who Knows You’re a Writer?” and it posed an interesting question about who you tell and when you tell them. Do you tell them after you’ve published or do you break the news when you’re in the middle of drafting your first story? Should you tell a lot of people or only a few? When did you start telling people?
To be honest I don’t really remember when I started telling lots of people I was a writer. I just assumed that it was a fact of nature and everyone knew or at least understood. When I was a kid I wanted to be a soldier, and a firefighter, a doctor, a vet, a police officer, an astronaut, etc., etc. you get the picture I was a normal little kid who wanted to be everything at some point. But strangely I never wanted to be a writer as I grew up. So here’s another interesting question:
When did you become a writer?
When you become a writer is something left to the eye of the beholder. Some say you’re a writer as soon as you write that poem in first grade that they always make you write, or the story about a kitten in kindergarten that you dictated to you mother to be written out. What does it mean to be a writer?
In my personal opinion you become a writer when you start telling a story for the sake of telling it. An idea crosses your mind and like an alligator in the canal you jump out grab its leg and tear into it until you have what you want, what you see in your head. That is being a writer.
Going along that train of thought I became a writer in first grade, or thereabouts, I just didn’t realize it until middle school at which point I fervently denied it. (I hate to burst your bubble people but writing as a career has virtually no prospects for most people.) Anyway, back in first grade we had a writing time which was most likely intended just so we could work on our handwriting but every day for about two weeks I worked on the same piece because I wanted to write the longest story in class. I came up with a thirty page completely fictional story about what my birthday at Chuck E. Cheese was going to be like. (I never got that party.) But that was the idea that crossed my mind and I grabbed it and tore at it until it was good and dead. (I was in first grade and didn’t realize that it was dead before I started.) That was when I became a writer. But here’s another question:
When did you accept that you are a writer?
It sounds like something you’d be asked at a support group meeting doesn’t it? The first impulse, at least for me, was to deny it. I didn’t stop writing, but I was not a writer. (Or so I claimed fervently until my sophomore year of high school.) I was bound a determined not to be a writer because there were no real career prospects and no money to be had… and you know how society is, it’s all about how much money you (or your parents) pull in a year. I accepted that I was a writer when I realized I don’t care for people who aren’t on paper and I couldn’t be a vet because I couldn’t put an animal to sleep, and I couldn’t be a doctor because, well I don’t like people all that much, blood makes me feel sick, unless it’s my own then it’s not so bad, and I have very shaky hands for some reason. And I couldn’t be a teacher because I have no patience. (Once a year for VBS is enough thank you very much.)
My sophomore year of high school I finally accepted I was a writer after several teachers complimented me on my work and I realized I had a seventy-five page story started that was still growing. So very grudgingly I told my English teacher I was a writer. Her exact words were, “The first step is always admitting it.” I haven’t forgotten that little exchange for even a moment since it happened. That’s also an answer to the original question.
You tell someone you’re a writer after you’ve accepted it yourself. You’re either always a writer, or you’re not. It’s a part of your personality, part of who you are as a person. So go ahead, even if you aren’t published, don’t say “I’m going to be a writer.” Instead say “I am a writer!” Shout it to the rooftops because you want the world to know what you are.
If you haven’t told anyone yet go ahead and leave a comment, tell people that you’re a writer, share your story of acceptance, or share the story of how you became a writer. I want to hear it and so do a lot of other people. Writing is who a person is and sometimes it can be scary to admit it. We need to support each other as writers. We’re a community, a family even. Share your story.