A common thread I’ve seen from fellow writers on the interwebs is the notion that they’re somehow a fraud – that to introduce themselves as writer is somehow an affront to honest, hard working people, an indulge in delusions of grandeur,even. That we can’t really call ourselves a write, not when we’ve still got that unrelated day job (or a need for one), because we view it as introducing a profession rather than a passion – and professionals get paid, right? But even successful published authors can feel this way, and it’s such a pervasive phenomenon there’s even a psychological term for it. I’m not sure if I should be comforted by this, or to cry out in dismay. But apparently, it’s not all bad.
For me, I had always felt that some right of passage, a rite of initiation if you will, was required before I could declare myself that which I aspired to be since childhood. I mean, it couldn’t possibly be so easy as to just be a writer. But you don’t need validation to call yourself a writer – not from a publishing house or even your family (although it’s always nice to be acknowledged). As you’ll hear time and time again – you just have to write.
I was watching an old Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode a while back, the one where Jake Sisko grows to an old man trying to rescue his father from a temporal trap (“The Visitor”), and in it he meets a young woman who finds his home during a downpour. During their conversation, she tells him that she hopes to be a writer someday. He responds with, “you sound like you’re waiting for something to turn you into one.”
And I sort of thought, huh, is that what I’m doing? Waiting for someone to hand me some credentials, like a college or university degree, to say “yes, you are now one of us”? Madness. Writing, like any other art be it illustration or painting or sculpting or music (etc), is not a job, per se. Sure, you can make money at it, and yes, it can be a lot of work, but it’s not the sort of profession where you go to school for a number of years so you can work your way up some corporate structure, or garner enough experience for starting your own practice. No one’s going to say you’re a certified fiction writer (technical writing and journalism are perhaps a different story).
Think of it more like body building. Do you need to be a personal trainer or some fitness guru to achieve gains? Must you be Mr. Universe to say you’ve whipped yourself into shape (or are in the process of doing so)? Of course not. You grow over time, and when you’ve achieved your goals you have to maintain your routine and keep writing. And avoid any PED’s – other than coffee, of course. And maybe a little weed. Or booze. Shhhh, I won’t tell.
So if you ever feel a fraud, just remember there are no missing credentials that will mark you out as one – you’re not a fake lawyer like Mike Ross from Suits. There’s no looming threat of incarceration (unless you plagerized something). The only exposure you’re likely to receive is the kind that connects you to your readers.