So many kinds of writing and therefore so many answers to these questions. But essentially it is bearing witness, and if you think it will resonate with others, sharing it. In pre- literary times it was conversation and singing in various forms.
Responding to this post
Wendy Houser Blomseth
Yes. Bearing witness. I am very aware of this now as I am starting the process of sorting through my archives and deciding what do I want to publish in a book, and with which themes. Personally I am more interested in the poems in which I am indeed, bearing witness.
Yes, being a writer is about bearing witness. However, I am a Poet first and foremost. I am what I call, a Poet who is also a writer. Not the other way round. I love writing poetry including haiku. Writing poetry is a large part of who I am.
Good questions. I don’t feel I could credibly claim to be a writer unless I earn the bulk of my income from it. I may be projecting my insecurities onto others’ opinions (or my perceptions of what they might be). I piggyback my creative writing on some business writing I do that seems more legitimate.
A writer is one who writes with intent, with ambition.
The ambition is to create something that aspires to art, also to have an audience and find a place in the world.
I think it’s detective work and an act of faith. Following a trail and trusting it will lead to some revelation.
You decide what art is by your own criteria. Save us from experts.
My reply I think it can be detective work, agree that ambition helps, the desire to create art or as you put it aspire to art, but what I sense is that writing is inherently caught up with inner confidence, drive and desire to perhaps feel one ‘has’ to write to survive in a certain way whether ones writing is for oneself, others, publication or sharing with friends/groups.
Ones own criteria is essential but getting to a point of confidence in that criteria ia another story. Maybe just believing that it really matters.
Yes believing that it really matters is motivating. Motivation is a fascinating and crucial part of any endeavour and one that can really help with writing.
Politics and advertising are all about “controlling the narrative”. Perhaps individuals want to “take back control” of their lives, give form to their experience. Blake: “”I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason or compare. I will create”.
Wendy Houser Blomseth
The “has to” feeling has affected me for years with my photography.
It is the same with many people I know who work as artists and writers. when I worked as a literary agent I was always negotiating between publishers and writers to make sure they were not ‘forced’ to reproduce something just for market reasons alone. This is a similar issue for musicians. Also publishers tend to be reactive rather than proactive so are always chasing the next ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Bernadine Evaristo’ but forget that at some point someone took a chance on both those writers and ‘made’ it happen for them by recognising their worth. J K Rowling had been rejected first by many literary agents before being accepted by Christopher Little and then 12 times by publishers before Bloomsbury ‘took a chance’ on her book!
Taking the last question about being a writer being a private occupation, the answer is both yes and no.
When I write it’s private, in a sense that I express my thoughts, ideas, my being, in my own way.
I publish it, in that sense it’s not private.
I teach English to students in Poland. I seldom tell them that I have written books from the very beginning of our lessons, but as the weeks and months go by. They tend to be more interested in what I have written about when they know me better.
I also write my own lesson plans for my students when I am not teaching and this is proving to be very rewarding for me.
I ensure that I use useful and relevant phrasal verbs and idioms for the topic, a relevant grammar point (for example, modals & semi-modals of obligation for health and safety) and an authentic listening section (my mum and dad record these and have built up a good reputation for themselves) along with a task.
This is my living and it keeps my mental well-being pretty healthy during these dark days in our lives and it is very enjoyable creating them too.
Writing helps me think
Clarifies my confusions
Sharing just feels good.
Evelyn Dering Kimmett
Wonderful thought-provoking post… I believe that if one constantly feels the need to write, s/he is a writer – whether or not one is paid for the writing. Writing comes from the heart and is a passion, like any other art.
I am a widow, a woman, a mother. These things have a certainty about them. I like to paint, to sketch, to take photos. I write, poetry, short stories and have been known to do calligraphy too. All these things do not define me as being any particular thing. Yet these are things that other people discern about me, the gilding on the objet d’art. There for, not a writer, a painter nor singer or any other professional, merely I’m Lynda and I create things that make me feel happy and fulfilled.
I would call myself a writer/poet in certain circumstances but not usually. For example I would not write “writer” on a census form or passport application because I earn my money from teaching, not writing.
But I am published so I think I can say I am a writer and poet in my spare time.
Everyone can write but few write well
In response to this post Amanda Jane Derry
I think there are many forms of writing- someone can write well in one area and not in another.
If I am 5 7 5 conformist, may not enjoy free style.. and so on
Christina Reihill, not everyone knows how to write, literally and those that do write who are we to judge if they write well or not? Every ‘writer’ can be encouraged to engage in workshops, see Amanda’s post in Announcements and improve their writing if they want to. What in one person’s opinion is a ‘good writer’ is in another’s opinion ‘not a good writer’.
Compared to those who live in the land of writing, I feel I am a tourist…I often wish it was my permanent home- but I can’t seem to put down roots…
I write because words come into my head and I need to get them down. For poems it is often a first line and then I have to engage. To start writing the words opens up a part of my brain . If I speak them in my head, they twist, turn and change and disappear into mist.
If I had to , I’d describe my creative self as an artist, a fibre artist, a textile sculptor, a poet , a Youtube video maker . It’s usually when I have to give an artist’s statement on a bio for an an exhibition , where I ask people to google my name and these things if they are interested. In seeing more than just my textile sculptures
I had my first inch and a half printed short story..in our local newspaper..when i was eight years old…it amazed me that the little story I wrote would be read by many of the citizens of our county…a story about our third grade class losing our goldfish to something that made it look like it had the mumps…and the PTA purchasing a fish to replace ours…and how I thought they were kind in doing so….now at 80…I remember the story and realize it had within the print..sadness..grief..relief and thankfulness..something I did not realize at eight…I just knew I was hooked on writing…
Interesting notion. Judging by the prolific posts on this welcoming page it feels like we are, all writers. I have always put pen to page from a young age. Did my fair share of study in literature at uni. We were treated as writers. I mentioned I knew I would never write the great New Zealand novel to my tutor. He was a bit taken aback. Most people there wanted to be writers. For me it’s about the love of it not the drive to publish though, there has been the odd thing. It feels like I’ve ‘published’ hundred of poems on line. Sometimes that’s enough. I belonged to writers groups and one long standing one for poets has been going for 40 years. There is an anthology coming out with our poems. That’s about my speed right now. I love seeing the writers on this page. How empathic and skilled they are at their craft. Their haiku and their other poems are a daily gift. In this way I get to hone my craft. So thank you Amanda. And thank you everyone on here.
Connie Pittman Ramsey
I don’t know if I can say I’m a writer, but I can say that I love to let my mind be set free. To get in touch with my feelings and for the ‘knowing’ that is inside of me … inside of us all. To be given permission from within is so liberating. To see it in print and out of the mind is even more liberating. Sometimes what I write only makes sense to me, and sometimes what I write takes somebody else in, too, and when that happens I feel I am a writer.5
I don’t know if I’ve ever introduced myself as a writer. I’ve been writing poetry for more than 10 years now, but it somehow feels odd. Isn’t a writer someone who is extremely famous for doing this, who makes a living entirely out of this? I’ve been afraid of being called a fraud if I simply said “Hi, I’m a writer!” For a really long time, I’ve believed that the only writers are those who almost every reader has heard of, you know? The geniuses of writing.
Carolyn Crossley’s response
Poet? Writer? or Both? Poet and Writer is what I call myself, of course you may choose to be Writer and Poet? You can call yourself what you like, published or not, performed or not. Have confidence in what you do!
When the thoughts swimming around in my head become Thai Fighting Fish, and I need to get them out and down on paper, I am a writer.
No, I don’t call myself a writer. If I was trying to promote a career, that might be different. I call myself a biologist, if anything, though that’s by formation and orientation not profession. I don’t know why I write – though the effort helps me to perceive things, and to unjumble thoughts. But now I know for whom I write – for you, whoever you are….
Yes, I’m a writer and introduce myself as such. Earned my living for 25@ years through writing. All my life through English. Used to be a freelance journalist. Now a novelist. Writing a shopping list is not the same aS writinga a list – shaping, forming, choosing, creating etc
I write. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. Even when I was very small, before I could hold a pen, making up stories and playing games of imagination and listening to my mother read to me. But like many others in the comments, without being published or paid to produce writing, I don’t feel I can claim that title Writer or Author regardless of what I have written or how much.
Shy of other people’s possible critique, I still write since childhood. Former broadcast journalist, translator, for me writing became a profession, but within outside requirements. My writing was “owned” by my organisation. I guess I still struggle to feel the approbation and freedom of writing. After a Creative Writing course I learned more about what to do to become published, if only to let my writing face the world. Yet I still cannot cross that line and start offering the years of short stories, poems, essays and flash fiction collected in my archives. I teach French and essay writing (in English and in French) and have co-founded an Essay writing competition. Am I a writer? Not quite, I don’t think. But I write. It’s part of me.
I don’t generally say I’m a writer/poet etc. I do tell people that I write, and that I had my first novel out in June but have had poetry and short fiction published/shortlisted/prizewinning before that, as well as performed my own songs at various functions etc. (if it slots in naturally and seems information that’s wanted). Level of detail depends on the depth and context of conversation, and whether it’s a conversation about work in general or between writers