What is a Writer?

I’ve been having this experience more frequently now: someone asks me what I do, and I say I’m a writer.

“Oh, what have you written? Do you write articles for magazines or do you write books?”
“I wrote a young-adult novel, and I’m about half-way done with the sequel.”
“Wow, that’s cool! What’s it called?”
“My novel is titled Beautiful. It’s about a seventeen-year-old homeless girl who…”
“Where can I buy it?”
“It’s not published yet. I’m looking for an agent.”
“Ahh,” they say as their interest wanes to nothing. They smile and nod as though I’d told them I’m trying out for the Indianapolis Colts (I’m 59 years old and 138 pounds, so that ain’t gonna happen).

It seems to me that to non-writers, a real writer is a published writer — no matter that I could self-publish my novel tonight on Amazon or wherever. There’s no bar anymore for that, and I’ve been clear all along that my goal is to be traditionally published. I want to see my books on the shelf in libraries and bookstores.

To me, a writer is someone who writes daily and treats their writing as a business, whether or not they’ve sold a piece yet. One wouldn’t tell a new business owner that they’re not really a business owner until they’ve made a profit. I want the same grace.

“Oh, Eric, don’t worry about what other people think?”
Uh, hello? Writers do care about what other people think, at least insofar as we depend on those ‘other people’ to buy our books.

“Eric, I only write for myself.” So do I; I call that my First Draft. Then, after beta readers, I hire an experienced editor to cut out all the extraneous crap I loved so much but which doesn’t add to the story: info dumps, unnecessary backstory, “perspective hopping,” characters or subplots that don’t matter…all that stuff has to go so that Other People will hopefully buy my novel and read it and enjoy it.

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