You're not an aspiring writer. You're a writer.

December 7, 2009

I can’t stand when people tell me they’re aspiring writers.

I know what they mean. They mean they’re aspiring to become a paid writer, or a published writer, or even a respected writer. But aspiring means you haven’t put your pen to paper or typed a story on your laptop. Aspiring means you’re thinking about writing, that you haven’t yet actually done it.

If you were training for a marathon, would you say you were an aspiring runner? No. You’d be running every day — maybe very slowly, maybe with walk breaks, maybe short distances — but you’d be running. That makes you a runner. An aspiring marathoner, yes, but also a runner.

The same goes for writing. If you write every day, you’re a writer. So stop saying you aspire to be a writer! Don’t sell yourself short. You’re a writer.

Think I’m being too picky? Maybe. I’m a grammar freak, a nerd when it comes to using words properly. (Do you laugh — not a little giggle, but an all-out, hearty cackle — when you read The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks? If so, you may be a grammar freak, too.)

When I started this blog under the title Aspiring Author, several readers told me (graciously) that they didn’t like the name, that it didn’t do me justice. I was already an author, they said. But here’s where the grammar freak in me comes in. The truth is, I’m not an author — yet. I’m a journalist. I’m a writer, one who has been published in newspapers and magazines. But to become an author, I need to be published. When my first book is on store shelves, that’s when I’ll call myself an author. Until then, I’m aspiring.

But you, yes YOU, since you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a writer. Maybe you’re already an author. Maybe you’re an aspiring author like me. But if you’ve already begun writing your memoir, your novel, your self-help book or some other project, then you’re no longer aspiring to put words to paper — you’re a writer.

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    15 Replies to “You're not an aspiring writer. You're a writer.”

    • Erin says:

      I’m often guilty of referring to myself as “an aspiring writer” for the very reasons you mention. But you’re right–I’m a writer. At least until I’m an author.

    • Karen Walker says:

      thanks for the distinction between writer and author–I hadn’t realized the difference before. I’ve been a writer for years, but an author since February. Hmmm.

    • Jamie says:

      You have been listening to George Carlin, haven’t you. That man could point out the inconsistencies within our language (which are many) like no one else.

    • Great insights. It’s good to have a wordsmith such as yourself to keep the rest of us on track! 🙂 Thanks for the post.

    • Ami says:

      Loved this post, Alexis. I think we writers often have a hard time recognizing or acknowledging that we are writers until long after we’ve earned the title. The author title may be a while in coming, but as you said, writers we are–so long as we’re putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard.

    • Katie says:

      I love this. Thanks for the reminder. I’m hearing Julia Cameron in my head – “if you want to be a writer, write” – and my creative writing professor, saying “Real writers can’t NOT write.” Ungrammatical, maybe, but so true.

    • Paige Bruce says:

      Awesome post. Power to the Grammer Police! 😉

    • jessiecarty says:

      I wish I had good enough grammar to be part of the Grammar Police 🙂

      But, I agree with you on this one. If you write – you are a writer. Being an author is a totally different thing.

    • Caleb says:

      I think the correct English would be: “you is a writer.”

    • Emily says:

      and while you may not have a book out yet, you have been a published and paid writer for a couple years — having a job as a staff journalist at a large newspaper is a big deal, missy. either way, glad you aren’t defining yourself by all the labels.

    • You may not feel like an author, but I think you are, at least according to the dictionary definition. Writers of essays are considered authors and aren’t blogs, essays?) Whatever you consider youself, the important thing is to keep up the good work!

    • Alyssa says:

      I think I’ve got a new mantra! “You’re not an aspiring writer. You’re a writer!” Thanks Alexis. Good luck with the edits.

    • Shafali says:

      Hi Alexis,

      You are right. I am not an aspiring caricaturist – I am a caricaturist:)

      I agree with you completely. Though societal acceptance is often considered a necessary proof for your being called a writer or an artist…you are actually one when you write or draw. Otherwise Van Gogh wasn’t an artist when he was alive (a paradox.)

      Warm Regards,

    • Dunno if I’m sure of what I am, I suppose if people want to read the book I’m a writer and if no one wants to read it not I’m an aspirer…
      so you tell me… would you read it???



    • James Olinda says:

      This makes a lot of sense, it hadn’t occurred to me that the perception was different for people looking in at what I was doing. I am actively writing, I’m not aspiring to write.

      Thanks for making the distinction. I just changed a lot of my Bio’s on my sites, and it’s a good switch!

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