Today I am starting a new series that I am calling Don’t Eat the Butt. Why? Because typing “butt” makes me giggle. In all seriousness, I like to think. In fact I think a lot and probably far too much. I wonder about the first person who ate an oyster. Was it a dare? Someone lose a bet? What about mushrooms? There are 100,000 known species of mushrooms, yet only 2,000 are edible. How do we know this? Someone had to eat the bad shrooms then pass that knowledge down for posterity. But seriously, who volunteers for this kind of stuff?
But the most fascinating culinary assassin, in my POV, is the puffer fish. There is only ONE TINY PART of the puffer fish that is not deadly. Oh, and if you don’t know how to cut a puffer fish correctly, you can unwittingly unleash deadly poison into the non-poisonous part.
Herb: Hey, this puffer fish kind of tastes like chick–…*grabs throat and falls over*
Fred: Note to self. Don’t eat the butt.
This idea of the puffer fish made me start thinking about our careers as artists. There are a lot of common misperceptions that can leak poison into our dreams if we aren’t careful. Thus, this new series is designed to help you guys spot the toxic beliefs that can KILL a writing career. In short, Don’t Eat the Butt. Some of us have been there, done that and got the butt-tasting T-shirt. I am here to hand down what I have learned from being stupid enough to eat the literary puffer butt and survive. Watch, listen and LEARN. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others.
Without further ado…
Lie #1 I’m not a real writer until I have a finished manuscript, landed an agent, am traditionally published, am selling books, have spent my retirement funds earning an MFA in Creative Writing.
This is crap and don’t buy it. What yahoo decided that we aren’t real writers until we meet some silly outside standard of validation? On what plane of existence does this make ANY professional sense? We are writers the second we decide to take this career decision seriously. And screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. There is no try, only do. We don’t try to get out of a chair. We either stand or we sit.
Think of it this way. As writers we are entrepreneurs (refer to this post). Do entrepreneurs use the term aspiring? I am an aspiring restaurant owner. Oh, I am an aspiring landscaper. I am aspiring housekeeper.
If I want a house-cleaning business, the second I gather all of my cleaning supplies and a vacuum together in the back of my SUV and print off some business cards, I am a house-cleaning business. Even before my very first client. In fact, I cannot land my first client until I first call myself a business. Who is going to let me into their house wielding a toilet brush if I approach them with, “Hi, I am an aspiring housekeeper. I am still learning the best ways to get rid of soap scum, but maybe you can hire me even though I am not, per se a real housekeeper.“?
If we want to own a restaurant, the second we take out a small business loan, we are restaurant owners, even before we have served the first hot meal to our first customer.
The title is not something we earn it is who we are. Our title defines our level of commitment. No other entrepreneurial profession waits for success or outside validation before they feel comfortable using a professional title. A dog-walker doesn’t wait. Neither does a gardener, a contractor, a party planner, florist, cake decorator, or a carpet cleaner.
We are writers, which means we are artists and entertainers. We are in the service industry. Yet we treat being a writer as if we are a doctor or a lawyer and need some outside professional certification before we can hang up a shingle.
Guess what? Comedians are comedians the second they put together a skit and find the courage to stand up in front of a crowd and invite criticism. Now, he or she may not be a talented or successful comedian, but that boils down to the quality of the content and the level of commitment to try again and again as long as it takes. Same with actors and artists and…yeah, WRITERS.
Many of you have invested thousands of dollars in computer equipment, conferences, workshops, books and reference materials. You’ve invested hundreds of hours of time writing, yet still refuse to use the title of writer. Would a caterer who’d spent thousands on a Viking stove and oven, fancy cooking tools and ingredients wait until she’d landed a huge wedding party to call herself a real caterer?
Why Writers Fear the Title
When we decide to use the professional title writer, it is a sign to others that we are no longer hobbyists. Others will expect a certain work ethic to go with our title. If someone uses the title “Landscaper” we generally expect this person owns some yard tools and that he actually mows yards more than once a month. I feel many writers fear using a professional title because we invite a new level of accountability. We fear failure and so we hedge with euphemisms like “aspiring author” so that we can goof off and write when the fancy strikes.
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work. ~Stephen King
Writers are professionals who treat their writing as if it is their first, second or even a third job. They have a solid work ethic and they know that they have to ante up and take the consequences for better or for worse. They are mature and no longer playing Literary Barbies with their characters.
Excellence begins with honesty.
We cannot ever be successful until we risk failure. And sure there are always going to be @ssclowns that will tell you that you are a poseur fake. But, when we rest our future on the validation of outsiders, we jeopardize genuine success. There is ALWAYS going to be a jerk to tell us we aren’t good enough.
There are people who believe I am not a real writer because I am not traditionally published. My answer? *shrugs* Can’t please everyone. Another example?
I have been working with Piper Bayard for almost two years. She has dedicated at least 30 hours a week to blogging, social media platform building and writing a novel. She finally got the green light to shop her finished 110,000 word manuscript. Yet, there are people who would claim she is not yet a “real writer” because she hasn’t landed an agent, landed a publishing deal, hit a best-seller list, gone yodeling while drunk on Jaegermeister.
Okay, Piper probably has done the yodeling thing.
Yet, here’s my point. Piper will tell you that the only reason she ever accomplished the successful blog, sound platform and AMAZING manuscript was that early on she made a decision to claim her professional title. She called herself a writer. From that point on her attitudes, habits and priorities changed to reflect the life of a professional.
So today, I shout, Don’t eat the butt! If we don’t take ourselves seriously, who will? Instead of nitpicking over who can call themselves writer or author let’s just refer to the Editor’s Mantra…Show, Don’t Tell. Actions speak louder than words or titles. So claim your title…then get to work ;).
And let other people quibble over who can call themselves what and when. We have books to write.
So what are your thoughts? Opinions? Fears? What keeps you from claiming the professional title?
I LOVE hearing from you guys!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!
Kristen, I love this. It is so very true. First we claim the title then live into it. I will be waiting for further butt posts with a worm on my tongue. (baited breath. No? forget it. Tee hee)
Funny, I had an idea for a blog post wherein I ponder when exactly it will be that I can begin calling myself a writer. Surely not yet. Maybe this weekend when my first novel is released? Maybe when the first book sells? But not yet…
Thanks for the encouragement.
I love this! I agree whole-heartedly. I detest writer snobs anyway. I’m a writer, and I’m proud of it. I made up business cards to say that not only am I a writer, but I’m also a publisher with my own publishing company. How about that! Now all I have to do is punch in everyday.
Yeah, I’m a writer, what’s it to you!
It is incredible what you can accomplish once you declare yourself as a writer. I recently realized that I’ve been a writer for a long time, but I always used that bad, bad word: aspiring. Once I took off the shackles and said, “No! I AM a writer,” EVERYTHING changed. I’m more dedicated, I’m more serious about my work, and I honestly do consider it a second job. If you’re still struggling with the concept, just take my advice and go for it. You’ll feel so much better once you do.
Thank you so much for this post. I needed to read this. Been thinking about starting my own blog, but have been afraid that I wouldn’t have anything to say on a daily or even a weekly basis. BUT writers write and that’s what I need to do on a regular basis. I am a writer. I don’t have a published novel yet, but it’s coming.
Hi, Marti! I just wanted to say…DO IT. I just started my own blog. I waited for so long because I had the same fears – what would I talk about? Would anyone read it? Why would they care? The answers: Anything. Yes. Because people are amazing. Writers are such gracious people. They’re always willing to give their time to fellow writers. We’re all in this together. Good luck!
Kristen, again I say…where have you been all my writing life? Lol
Once again you impress and encourage me to call myself what I always knew I was…I’m a WRITER! And while my writing doesn’t always fit into the mold of “traditional” writing, I can only hope and work toward the goal that one day I will be a published author. Until then, I’m STILL a writer!
You know, I’ve often thought about that food stuff too. I mean, who decided to dig into a lobster? Those things look scary! I’ve thought about the mushrooms too. I’d have to say I’m glad we live when we do so that someone else took the fall so that we may enjoy such culinary delights without fear of death!
It took me a long time to feel comfortable telling someone I’m a writer. And I still kind of hold my breath as I say it and wait for their response. I don’t know why. I guess…I worry they won’t take me seriously. So many people think they could write their life in a memoir, but it’s not at all what they think it is. Writing is tough, and people don’t appreciate that fully. Okay, some do, but I think most don’t. So they either think you’re silly for being artistic or they don’t understand and appreciate the craft.
Woot! The only butt around here is in THE CHAIR, in front of THE KEYBOARD! Love it, and thanks for the reminder, Kristen. Looking forward to this series!
great blog – thank you! You make writing fun! Actually, I just read about the despair of writers here in Germany over that they could not land with an agent and were refused about 50 times. They gave up and said it was not worth it putting all this time into writing.
I guess they did not understand what it is all about. Either you write or you don`t. Did not Hemingway, Steinway and many others go through the same trouble on their road to success? Yet, they wrote, just like you, like all the others here, like I do. Either you love what you do and give your blood into it or you are simply not a writer.
Loved your blog!
Peace and smiles
(just in case, since only my German blog shows up: http://beatbloodpressure.wordpress.com)
Funny, my husband said similar words to me last night. I was a bit down; you know how it goes. The writing went downhill. I felt like a failure. I told him I’d never be a writer. He said “you’ve spent the last two years doing nothing but writing all day, every single day. How is that not being a writer? What else would a writer do?”
Good point, I thought. Perhaps I should have said “good writer” lol 😉
Spot on, Kristen.
You’ve totally pre-empted my blog-post planned for next week, so I’ll just link back here when the time comes. 🙂
What timing! I just posted about finally reaching the point where I own it and call myself a writer! No butt for me… at least this time. 😉
This is so true.
I tell everybody I’m a writer and have become used to the glaze that decends over eyes (especially male) when I say I write Romance. And I’ve lost count of the number of people who say that they’ve got a book in them too (even though they don’t read.) Or that I’d better not write about them because they’ll recognise themselves(!) If we want to be taken seriously then we need to take ourselves and the work seriously. That means no meeting girlfriends for coffee on the spur of the moment. Putting up a DO NOT ENTER sign in red on my writing room door under pain of death. It’s taken time, but the family have learned the hard way to respect my time and my space.
Sit the butt in the chair and WRITE. TODAY I wrote THE END on a piece of work that’s been a wip for over a year. It’s been revised, edited thirty times (yep, thirty) and I’m half way through book two of this series. But one of the most interesting things that struck me last night was that the dump file for this book is 50,000 words, I hadn’t even noticed! That’s almost another book! So I checked out my other dump files, one has 60,000 words. So the lesson is do not press delete on scenes, sequels or threads because you never know when you can use them again.
Talking of what people eat and why? Who came up with the idea of porridge? Who looked at offal, oatmeal, pepper, salt and a sheep’s stomach and said, “Mmm, lovely?”
Seriously, I’m Scottish and I want to know.
LMAO. 30 hours? It’s actually around 70. Saturday is my “day off” when I only edit or write a few hundred words on my WIP because I can’t stand to stay away from it for a full day. It owns me.
(I am fortunate in getting to write full time, though. There are plenty of writers out there who hold jobs and write awesome books because they do what they can every day. i.e. Kait Nolan – LOVE her book, RED.)
I can’t agree with you more, Kristen. I taught and performed Middle Eastern dance for over 25 years. As I told my students, you’re a dancer when you decide you’re a dancer. It’s true for all of the arts. You’re a *fill in the blank* the moment you have the balls to claim it and not care if anyone agrees. You may not be a good *fill in the blank* but you are one.
I’ve been an attorney, too. I can guarantee you that there are no “aspiring attorneys.” While you can’t practice law without a professional license, every attorney walks the walk and talks the talk long before graduation day, or no one takes them seriously. Bottom line. If you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will, either.
Here’s the truth. I now count several undisputed authors among my friends. Not one of them questions my status as an author. They’re too busy being authors to be concerned with my self-image. I’m too busy being an author to be concerned about how “aspiring authors” judge me.
Owning it is the first rite of passage.
I’m going to comment here because (I can) Piper’s final line says it all: “Owning it is the first rite of passage.” When I first came out of my mancave it was to “become” a writer, somehow I thought there was a mystical formula out here on the mysterious net that would make me one and I was right. The formula: Self-confidence + hard work. That’s pretty much it.
It is interesting how people will put extreme effort into getting the latest video game, waiting outside a store for a day in bad weather to be one of the first to own it. Tons of effort, but won’t do the same when it comes to writing. Anything that we want in life is attainable if we commit to it, put in the work and treat it as a reality rather than as a dream.
I put this comment here for another reason…Kristen and Piper are the two I learned this from. Professionals don’t wait for a sign, they put one up and sell lemonade as if they owned the formula. Peace.
Teenagers. That’s your answer! 17 year-old me would’ve volunteered for the shroom tasting. Gladly.
ROFL! So true!
You know me, I’m a writer. It’s been a reality for a while. More so now!
Thank you! Perfect thing to read first thing in the morning and a great pep-talk anytime. From now on, I am a Writer, so there, world! Now I have to hit the shower and get ready for my other job. Love your blogs.
Kristen, Thanks for an uplifting post to end the week on, it was good timing for me since I nailed my twenty fifth rejection yesterday!
Your blog is always a big inspiration. Thanks.
PS Do you remember the episode of the Simpsons where Homer orders puffer fish and gets poisoned? Very funny!
Thanks Kristen 🙂 I always knew I was. Being a writer give me the beat in the heart.
When I embraced the term writer, my whole attitude, routine, and craft changed–for the better. I encourage all ‘aspiring’ writers to embrace what they do, and to lob ‘aspiring’ off their log line.
Am thinking of Johnny English now, the scene in the restaurant. Yes, I am a writer, and I have the distraction gene to prove it.
As usual, you hit the topic square on. Thanks for a great post to go into the weekend with, Kristen!
Just…blow my socks off, why don’t you? *grin*
Okay, I’m NEVER going to write a classically styled book, sell a zillion copies, and live on mai tai’s.
But i *am* a writer.
I write erotic fiction.
I write. Every. Single. Day. I work hard to make my stories good. Readable, Fun.
It’s never going to be War and Peace.
I’m at peace with that.
Thank you Kristen–you constantly inspire. And the puffer fish analogy? Freaking Brilliant. 🙂
You come up with the best analogies, Kristen! And great titles for your posts, too! Butt — LOL!
I am a writer. Defined by the fact that I sit my butt in a chair and write novels. Thanks for giving us all a boost today! Happy Friday!
I love the title, too. It’s fun to say butt, especially in a professional setting! I think you are totally right on about saying that we are writers. I don’t remember when it clicked in for me, but now I have it firmly implanted in my brain. I call myself a writer. Yes, it’s annoying when people ask when my book is going to be published, but I can deal with that. I also took a big step yesterday and went to the bank and opened a business account for myself as a writer. I also registered myself as a business with my state. It helps with taxes and it helps me feel like a professional writer. Why wouldn’t an editor or agent say yes to my query, I’m a professional writer with the debit card to prove it!
Lol, I’ve wondered the same about those poisonous mushrooms.
Self-perception really is key, but it is hard to break out of the molds your friends and family put you in. It’s so worth it though! When my friends hear about my work ethic when it comes to writing, they stare at me in disbelief. Somewhere in their minds, they do see it as a hobby. But I’m slowly changing their perceptions. 😀
Yes, yes, yes! I’ve been a stay at home mom for 14 1/2 years, homeschooling for the last 8 and my art and writing was always a “someday I’ll be a real writer and illustrator” dream. Three months ago I decided there is no such thing as someday and I’m an artist and writer NOW. What a difference that attitude change made! I write and paint every day and it feels good to have it be part of my daily routine. My kids still take precedence, but I am consciously making room for me in a way I did not before.
Thank you for writing this and thank you for making me laugh out loud this morning!
Hi Kristen (and everyone else) — I agree with all of this, but to add my two cents I would like to argue that writers (like the comedian in the example, or actors, singers, and performers or artists of any kind) haven’t really passed the benchmark of “being a writer” without one thing — the audience. That can be readers of the printed word, online viewers or people literally sitting in an audience listening to a writer sharing his/her own work. Whatever form that takes, being published or sharing your work somehow is, I think, a big part of it. If it’s only private writing, that’s just practising — however valuable that is. Putting your work in front of someone else’s eyes is the writer’s equivalent of hanging out the shingle.
Thanks for the comment, but may I posit this? Someone WRITES 100,000 words and they aren’t a writer? What are they? A try-er? A caterer has to have “an audience” known as “people eating their food” but how are they ever going to land a party if they don’t claim the title “caterer?” The title testifies the level of professional commitment. Going by this notion of “I am not a writer until I have an audience”, this means that I am not a vineyard owner until I’ve produced a fine wine. So who invested the hundreds of thousands in land, fertilizer, grape vines and workers? The Wine Try-er? Trust me, if a mold wiped out acres of grapes, the owner would still be the owner of a vineyard….though likely a failed vineyard or a bankrupt vineyard. The owner is in it for good or bad.
We are writers the second we claim it. Now, we are “successful” writers once we have the audience and have sold books. Sorry, I bought the crap of needing outside validation. My opinion? As long as we don’t claim the title, we are hobbyists. As hobbyists, we will live the life and adopt the work ethic of a hobbyist and never rise to become a professional.
The title goes to the person who makes the investment and who takes the risk for better or worse. We risk hitting it big, but we also risk making a fool of ourselves. “Aspiring” means I want the dream without the risk that I might very well just fail. It’s lukewarm commitment that births mediocrity. And, of course, all of this is my opinion, but I have been there and I know the mental change that comes with making a real commitment.
I have a new mantra and it’s YOUR FAULT! From now on there will be not butt-tasting here! No butt-tasting allowed! Down with the tasting of the butt! Help I can’t stop myself.
You’re right, there’s something about the word ‘butt’.
It seems I took action. For about two months I called my self an aspiring writer. I then made the choice, I am a writer. I may be a new writer, but a writer none the less. Thank you for always inspiring me to be better, do better, be who I am!
Hilarious post Kristen! Its funny because when I was a psychology student and everyone asked “what are you studying?” and I replied with psychology, they all said “oh are you psycho analyzing me now?” Of course at that time I want to hold us a sign in front of my face that said “no @ssclown”. I really wasn’t a psychologist while studying psychology because I wasn’t practicing, and how can an 18 year old be a psychologist? Now really. Anyways, now when I tell people I’m a writer, you get the automatic question “what do you write?” luckily I have a two-word answer that usually causes disinterests them in a second “women’s fiction.” Then you get the “oh…anyways..” or “oooh cool.” lol. 🙂 Oh the stories us writers can share.
I have referred to myself as an aspiring author. It wasn’t a title I choose. An association, I was attempting to join, gave the title to me. This association is full of authors with street cred—they are traditionally published and have literary agents. I took the title. However, it wasn’t a cop out. Instead it symbolized, to me, that I wasn’t there yet. Not being there I realized that I had to try harder because I knew there was a lot of work to be done. So I made a commitment to send a submission out every month—this is how I landed a publisher. I don’t think the title is as important as the mindset.
I’ve called myself a writer and a blogger. I finished up my second draft to my NaNo Novel and am shopping for places to send it while I tweak it…
I am so freaking scared of the rejection. But I know it beats just shoving it on a shelf to become a dust magnet. Then I’ll never know!
I mean, how many times was Gone with the Wind rejected?
Good stuff, Kristen.
Thank you for this, Kristen! I’ve already been pubbed by a big six and I can say it never goes away — that sneaky ghost that creeps up on behind us to challenge and sneer at our goals and dreams.
I loooooooooooooove this post!
Fantastic, Kristen, and I know the rest of the series will be too!
I was a hobbyist for far too long–to the point of passing up opportunities because I didn’t count myself as a writer. Forget the files filled with completed stories, the journals with new ideas and notes. I did go to a local conference and fell down the well deeper because I wasn’t deemed worthy by the MFA click and didn’t have a book. I wouldn’t even submit pieces because I thought the editors would think I wasn’t a real writer since I had a day gig.
A light went on for me in 2010 and I’ve been cranking and growing ever since. Being a writer for me is ownership of my craft and the work needed, and then making time to get it done. I still have a full time day job AND I am a writer.
I’m a writer 🙂 It took me a few years to be comfortable claiming the title. I was worried about being seen as arrogant. Also, I hate the inevitable question ‘are you published?’ and ‘how’s your book coming?’. Mostly because how my book is coming depends on the stage I’m at when asked. 🙂
This is such a huge coincidence. I was thinking about this very topic two days ago. I had bought a bag of cassava chips from a Cuban restaurant. I didn’t know what they were, but they tasted good, so I looked them up on the internet and discovered cassava is a South American shrub and a major food staple. However, if they’re not prepared properly, they can cause cyanide poisoning. As I was munching on the chips and reading about them being toxic, I wondered about all the different foods, especially puffer fish, that can kill people and why the second person to try them did.
Oh, and I am a writer. Not having a paying job actually makes it easier, but I was a writer when I worked a full-time job.
Thank you so much for this post. I knew this, but hadn’t done it in this particular sphere of my life. I always tell people “Fake it until you make it.” and if you don’t know something go find out. I simply wasn’t doing it as a writer. That all changes right now. I am a writer. It is what I do. I write.
I shan’t eat the butt. And I want to be Piper shen I grow up. Yay @piperbayard! I believe in you, your words and your actions. I think you are stuck with me, lady. 😉
I love any way to debunk a lie, especially one that stymies creativity.
As far as writers and butts go…I’m all about butt-in-chair and not on my dinner plate.
I usually just say ‘I write,’ which is fairly vague, and seems to disperse some pre-conceived notions about where I am in my writing career. After I say that, people ask what I write, and that’s where the interesting conversations start.
Personally, I became a writer when I discovered that gettin’ those voices out of my head with a computer and keyboard was cheaper than weekly therapy sessions and psychiatric drugs. I verified that when I churned out 40k words last November.
Commitment to writing? I’ve decided to start a business helpin’ writers, artists, etc. with some of the platform stuff (complimenting Kristin’s work, not competing). That way, I can make all of the writing related stuff I do (cons, blogs, etc.) part of my day job, and I can free up off-hours for actual writing. Yays.
Along the lines “aspiring author” are “practicing medicine” and “practicing law.” I don’t want an attorney or doctor who is practicing — I want a real one who is done practicing.
Bu the way, I’ve stopped calling myself a writer in favor of being an author.
I want the t-shirt that says “Don’t Eat The Butt”. Lol. I would wear it proudly. 🙂
Great new series. Kristen. I laughed out loud at the image of the woman wielding a toilet brush and stumbling all over her words trying to convince someone she was a housekeeper. That would be me many moons ago. I’m glad you are helping writers get over that while they are still young enough to enjoy it. LOL
I agree, Kristen, there is no “aspiring” writing, there is no try – only do. If you really are a writer, you will write. I had to keep telling myself that until others could read my work and love it. When I start to doubt my ability, I love reading my book reviews when people write how much they loved my book or they loved my writing and can’t wait for the next one, how my story touched them, made them laugh or cry. When I read those quotes, something inside of me rises up and says, “Yes! You are a writer! And a darn good one!” Thanks for your blog, Kristen. I love it!
Good word. You’re a great cheerleader, KL.
SO good, as always … and you truly made my day when you confirmed that “gone yodeling while drunk on Jaegermeister” is part of what defines a writer! *major fist pump while shouting Yeah* And Piper’s participation makes it even more meaningful!
Thanks Kristen for your honesty and insight. Writer is tough business. A skill. One knows if one has it ….or not. Seems easy but isn’t. Tonight…Friday 13th to be specific…I put my first of a series out on Kindle on Al Qaeda. Taken the plunge now…no going back. Scary but exhilarating… a whole new world on Friday the 1sth no less 😉
Happy New Year to all.
Oh Mylanta, but I wish like crazy that I’d been born with this post repeating on a loop inside my head! Sure, it’s not so much of an issue wearing my “Hello, I’m a Writer” button now, but for so many years I ducked behind the curtains whenever I dared put the “W” anywhere in the vicinity of my name and some clown (now I wonder, were they REALLY a clown? Did they go to clown school? Own a pair of really big shoes? A polka dot tie???) would jump in with “But are you published?” Fabulous, fabulous post. You continue to inspire and amaze, Kristen. You must surely be a writer 🙂
Wow…what a solid piece of inspiration! Thank you so much. This is a saver and a re-reader.
And can I just say…butt? Lol. Enjoy your weekend and thanks again!
Great start to the new series. And, yes, I’m a WRITER. I may not have published yet, but I commit a significant amount of time each day to writing and honing my craft. I introduce myself as a writer and that’s what I do. The hell with anyone who minimizes my commitment to the art of writing just because my name is not in print yet. Thanks, Kristen, for the encouragement and for the inspiration your blogs always give to me.
I’m a writer. I don’t wanr to be an author because it means I’m dead and teachers are saying nice things about me. Actually I’m a storyteller and a liar who takes the time to write them down. Unlike a politician who does it in front of people and thinks we believe him.
Fantastic analogies, Kristen. This subject of (bravely) calling or (cowardly) not calling myself a writer always reminds me of how in the corporate world people stress out about the titles. Are you a writer or an author? Why do we care so much about a technicality of the title. It’s time to simplify this – I write, thus I am a writer, or author: take your pick.
I’m a writer just finishing my first novel. Thanks.
I thought I was the only one who spent time wondering just how exactly humankind has determined what is poisonous to eat and what isn’t. In ancient times, did a person keel over and then one of his friends say something like, “Well, he died. But let’s try one of these other parts because there’s sure to be good eatin’ here somewhere.” What the heck?
The rest of the post was great too P-)
According to what I have read, it is a gene most of us have lost that helped humans detect poisonous food. Some of us still retain it. I am one. I cannot drink Diet Coke or any other soft drink with artificial sweetner in them. They tast, well, like poison. Most of the artificial sweetners are poisons.
Great post & love your advice about claiming that writing title. Getting a sense of self-worth. Still, I have to admit that I didn’t call myself a ‘writer’ for years, not even after I’d been professionally published. But this was largely because the chalice had been rather poisoned by posers – the people who swan about at publisher parties with pelvises thrust foward declaring their identity as ‘wraiters’, but who in fact hadn’t even tried assembling a manuscript. They weren’t even ‘aspiring’ in the sense of trying to learn the profession. I guess every field has to have its groupies, but it rather put me off wanting to be known as a ‘writer’.
Call it ironic, but after a while, I found I’d been stereotyped as a ‘historian’ on the basis of what I’d published, but I never thought of myself as such, because in fact it was such a small, small part of what I did – at which point I rather found succor and a home in the notion of being a ‘writer’. Um…
I’ve never thought of “aspiring” in conjunction with other professions. Thank you for that fresh perspective.
I think it’s people like my boyfriend who determined if things were safe to eat. He loves to taste things when we’re out in the woods. He takes tiny bites, but I always wonder if he’s going to end up sick or worse.
Do you think if I say “I’m a writer” enough times I will believe it? I’m a writer, I’m a writer, I’m a writer! (Clicking heels together three times).
I am a writer!!!!! Best news I’ve heard all day!
Oh, and no, I am never, ever, trying a puffer fish. Not ever.
On the other hand, I love mushrooms. Very good question, how many died that we might eat the safe ones?
*applauds* Breaking psychological barriers and invisible scripts is a huge part of succeeding as a writer. You need to beat fear and perfection to finish your novel, to blog, to get an agent or to dare to self-publish. The first step is proudly saying that you are a writer. And meaning it.
Wow! As usual great post. Must ‘food’ for thought lol (lame). In the vein of everything useful to us writers I found a really good website that offer a generally less painful way of wrighting (generalizations galore) for first-time novelists that is at least worth a visit. http://www.how-to-write-a-novel.com (lol simple) How To Create A Plot Outline In 8 Easy Steps
By Glen C. Strathy*
Thanks for an amazing post – your timing was perfect, as I’d decided in December that 2012 was going to be different for me, as a writer! I look forward to reading the rest of the series!
What an awakening slap in the face this blog is. I’m immediately changing my twitter profile from aspiring author to WRITER – yes, it will be in capitals. Thanks Kristen.
I took comfort in the face that I’m not the only one who has mis-guidedly apsired, blogs like this and books such as We Are Not Alone help tremdously.
When sitting in front of your laptop full of ideas, hopes and dreams it is all to easy to become lost in the overwhelming goal of success and putting yourself out there for criticism. None of us want to feel that we are by ourselves, ever, so its a morale boosting reminder that actually We Are Not Alone.
It was strangely unsettling the first time I said out loud, “I’m a writer.” From reading your work I knew I had to do it. It got easier. Then On November 26, 2011 I made the decision to follow my heart and write fiction as my priority work and non fiction secondarily, I was back to the insecure place again. Saying I write fiction falls out of my mouth like an avalanche. I hope it will flow out the more times I say it. My butt’s in the chair every morning for 3 hours before I home school the boys and 4 days a week it’s back in the chair after lunch for 3 so realistically I am a fiction writer.
Just found your blog last weekend (was recommended in a local authors’ workshop) and have been hooked ever since. Love your ‘sarcasm-mixed-with-semi-blunt-honesty’ style — rings so true to my own natural tendencies.
I started my first novel the fall of 2010 and never looked back. I guess I haven’t been wrestling with the title of “writer” so much as “author”. When would you say it’s fair to make that transition? I’ve had a few free-lance professional articles published, but my fiction is still a WIP. Is it fair to claim the “author” status before my novel has been published?
Five minutes ago I finished the first draft of the first book that I’ve written that I believe has commercial appeal. I have two other practice novels, but this is the first one I pledge to put everything into in order to polish and market. I am a writer!
Kristen, this post came at a great time. I was telling someone last week that if I don’t get a new agent, my novel published, see my book on store shelves, etc, etc, etc, the last 8 years (yes I said 8) I spent writing this story will have been wasted. Thanks for the great reminder not to let others (strangers really) define my success.
I played that game with myself for a while, back in the day – because when I’d say “writer” people would ask “Oh, where can I read your stuff?” and that set up a whole awkward “Um, well, nowhere yet, but . . .” – ugh!
So, I said, “I’ll call myself a writer when I have something, anything, published.” That happened and I still faltered and said, “I’ll call myself . . . when I am paid for a piece of writing . . .” that happened and still! yup, still I felt awkward, and then, ” . . .when I am published in print AND paid . . .” okay, that happened, but . . . still . . .
When my first novel came out, I said, “NOW, when someone asks, where can I read your stuff, I can say, here and there and in this book!” but a new “thang” came up – yeah, but am I an author yet? O…M…Gawd – stop the madness *laughing*
love the post here.
Admittedly, I’m under-confident by nature (or training), but it wasn’t until I had several books traditionally published that I could choke out the words, “I’m a writer.” Must have had something to do with the English lit degree. Jane Austen… Now that’s a writer. To this day, with 11 books out, when someone asks what “I do,” I’ll offer up my day job title. Writer intervention needed! Luckily, the angst doesn’t stop me from doing the work.
I loved this blog. I’ve struggled with this issue of calling myself a writer for awhile. When people asked:
1) What do you do.
I mentioned the titles of my “real jobs” (university professor, copy editor, consultant), then I
might add in a softer voice I also write.
The next question is inevitablyL
2) What? (as in what do you write).
I used to choke on that one and say something like “stuff”.
Next question: Are you published?
Until I was … published … I’d say “no” and the conversation would end.
Now that I do have a published book, I answer a little differently.
WRITE ON! A few weeks ago, when asked what I do, I heard myself say WITHOUT THINKING: “Writing is my unpaid work.” Did the earth move under my feet? Might as well have, for I realized I had just declared myself, no going back: I am a writer. Having jumped over that chasm, and lived, it was back to business as usual: writing from 8:30 to 10:30 every day. Thanks for this post. Pull my name out of the hat. Please. Smiles.
Strangely, I don’t remember myself ever saying I was an “aspiring” writer. Maybe when I was in my teens I’d say I wanted to grow up and be a writer, but once I grew up, I said I was a writer, though my other work is mentioned on occasion as well.
But this is an interesting point. And I really like the puffer fish metaphor. That’s just too funny. Thanks for the great article, and I hope you have a great day! Happy writing!
Thank you; I had a terrible 2011 and have not written over 4000 words since May. My motivation and confidence has been shaken and I need to get back on the horse and write. So I promise to overcome things and get started and finsih the new Marshall Jenkins book and get on with the next one. Thank you.
I shared this post at my Career Success Group tonight and the whole group was buoyed by this–even those of us that aren’t writers! Excellent advice indeed! No butt eating for me!
It took me a while before I “came out” of the writing closet. I have to admit to being afraid of telling people what I am doing, “but” once I did, I felt proud of my accomplishment. With all I have written on my blog, that alone will be something of a legacy for my family although I expect to accomplish more than that after my WIP gets published. (I believe in the power of positive thinking!)
Congrats to Piper!
My boyfriend and I had a conversation about this not too long ago. He took the opposite tack: questioning my referring to myself as a writer -before I joined one of those retirement-fund-devouring MFA programs- since he would never think to call himself a scientist without having achieved a certain amount of prestige in his field: grants, publications, etc. (He has a B.S. in chemistry.) Amusingly enough, now he’s a businessman and happily reporting my progress on my novel to his parents over the phone and I’m STILL calling myself a writer, even though that novel’s still in need of a couple month’s worth of revisions before it goes ANYWHERE.
The response to that notion is that scientists are not part of the entertainment/service industry. It’s comparing apples and oranges. You can open a restaurant and never worked a day in your life in a restaurant. It might be a bad idea, but it is doable. Yet, I cannot practice law without passing the bar. Different fields with different requirements. Yet, as writers, we are comparing ourselves to fields that really are not an accurate comparison.
Firstly, I drive past a Butt Street on my way to work every day and still laugh myself silly at it.
Secondly, this post just drove home what my friends and family have been telling me for years. They’ve believed in me more than I have in myself. The turning point for me came a few months ago when I was introduced at a party by a friend as a “writer”. I wouldn’t have done that if I’d introduced myself. I asked myself why on earth would other people believe I’m a writer when I don’t believe it myself.
I decided that this year would be the year I up the ante. I am half-way through completing my five-year writing/publishing plan, the first year of which is titled “Self-publish or Die”.
It’s amazing what a change in attitude can do. It’s only been two weeks since I decided to start taking myself seriously, but already I feel energised and excited about the things I want to accomplish this year and into the future. I have a tonne of ideas that I’ve been poking and prodding at for the last few years. Since I’ve picked just one to focus on, I’ve made more progress on it in the last couple of weeks than I have in the last three years.
It’s still a daunting task, but I finally feel like my heart is in this job with me.
Thanks, Kristen, for keeping us honest.
Once again, great post, Kristen!! And one that had me laughing – of course!! (I won’t be eating any more butt. Never did like that stuff anyway. Uck.)
I love this post and this blog and your book “Are you there blog…” So I made sure I told my writer’s group about them when we had coffee this morning. The thing is, I formed this writer’s group for one reason and that was to hang out with other writers. They didn’t have to be published, or have won competitions or have ‘proved’ themselves to anyone else and none of them have. It didn’t matter what kind of writing they wanted to do. They just needed to want to write. And through the process of meeting and talking about this thing we love, we have all come to think of ourselves as writers. I guess it’s because we decided we were.
My insides dropped as I was reading this. I so want to call myself a writer. But am scared,looking for someone to validate my stand.Come to think of it why is it, that’s it’s only writers who yearn for this kind of validation. This is a complete joke, I have being fed a lie that I have swallowed so heartily. No more eating the butt…
*deep breath* “I am a writer”. Thanks Kirsten for this not so gentle push 😉 Very much appreciated!
The first thing this post reminded me of was a documentary on zombies narrated by Jonathan Pryce. His pronunciation of “puffa-fish” still gives me the giggles. That being said, I think part of becoming a writer is applying the term as a verb, not a noun. A writer writes even when they have nothing to write about. They write good stuff and really terrible stuff. And they edit, revise, and start again the next day. Thanks for the thoughtful analogy!
Oh man, oh man, I could not agree with you more! I wrote on the exact same subject last year ( http://www.brokennerves.net/2011/10/10/why-ill-never-call-myself-aspiring/ ) but my sentiments match yours exactly! Call yourself what you are!
And def do not eat the butt!
I AM A WRITER. Lather. RInse. Repeat.
Great post, Kristen! And I agree with you 100%. Somehow I skipped the whole “aspiring” stage. I guess once I started writing my first novel for real, I called myself a writer because what was I doing? Writing. Duh. 🙂
And I think you’ve inspired yet another blog post here. 😉
Fantabulous post 😉
Once we have the right attitude we can do anything, the sky really is the limit!
This is a wonderful post! How is it that I just found your blog? I love it, I love it, I love it.
I’m an English prof at a community college, and I meet SO MANY PEOPLE who are afraid to call themselves writers. They look down at their feet, shove their hands in pockets, and murmur something about “One day . . . ” when I ask them if they’re writers. Yet, most of them spend hours every day writing, writing, writing.
So, my second question is always: “Are you a reader?” Here’s how it goes:
Me: “Are you a reader?”
Them: “Yes! I love reading!”
Me: “How often do you read?”
Them: “Oh, every day, or every other day.”
Me: “Who pays you to read?”
Them: *exaggerated eye blinking* “Well, no one pays me, I just read. Because I love it.”
Me: “And that’s what makes you a reader.”
Them: “Well, yeah, of course!”
Me: “So, why aren’t you a writer, again?”
Them: *grin slowly spreads across face* “I see what you did there.” 🙂
Ohh!! This is so perfect. I’m using this if anyone EVER disputes that I’m a writer. Thank you!!
Sorry! I typed my blog link incorrectly on my last post. Now it’s correct.
I just had to share that I wanted to come back to this blog, but couldn’t find the bookmark I made. So, I did a Google search for “don’t eat the butt” and here I am! Genius post title, we will never lose our way back here again!
(Although, the search did bring up some other questionable links . . . )
I have to say, as a poet, I disagree with the Stephen King quote, much as I value the first half of his writing career (not so much when he starts ripping himself off.)
It’s all well and good to sit down and work at getting ideas by writing, but I’m of the opinion that the sit down and work aspect of writing comes in the editing. For me, the best way to come up with that fresh idea is living. I’m not trying to say writers should never sit down and work, but we also need to not sit there and bash our heads against the keyboard (or notebook) if we can’t come up with an idea. Of course, the counterpoint would be that going out and living could be your job (an hour of people watching a day, using the news for inspiration, etc.) so I suppose the only thing I take offense to is…well nothing. Since you wouldn’t be sitting around waiting for inspiration in the first place.
I will say though, I was just wondering these same eating questions in terms of berries. For instance, those that are blue are generally poisonous except for…blueberries. So who first ventured into the blueberry territory?
So inspiring! I mean it! Thanks! I’ve been ‘trying on’ my title for a couple months and it is working! You just gave me more reasons to keep on working. I desperately need to win your contest this month! 😉
Thanks for all the positive thoughts!
Diane…writing at difish.wordpress.com
I don’t call myself a writer very often, and when I do, I tend to put ‘amateur’ in front of it, as an indicator that I am not yet paid for my efforts. I do, however, frequently refer to writing as my second job, equal to the day job, without reserve. Anything that involves that many hours is a job – part-time, but still a job. I am, however, blessed with a family and a boyfriend who not only accept the hours spent writing, but encourage it.
I have always thought of myself as a writer even if I did not take the title seriously. I am who I am, and if the rest of the world does not accept it oh well. Your a writer the moment you decide to sit down write a novel, and even if you started in elementary school it does not matter because you are still a writer.
This so fits with what I realized a month ago and now have posted on my wall: “Writing is my job.” Seriously, it’s changed my life.
Love it! I had to laugh because I write because I’m too old to play with Barbie dolls. 🙂
Holy crap, that’s one of the best blog posts I’ve read in, well, forever! Thanks, I really needed to read this today. And, I’m no longer eating the butt. I am a WRITER, see me write @ http://www.cfitewrite.blogspot.com
Kristen, you rock!
Thank you SO much for this. It really speaks to me. I have 240 advanced-draft pages of a manuscript, probably a hundred more early-draft pages, a blog for which I write two essays per month, and ideas for at least three more novels, yet I hesitate to call myself a writer, even though I work on these projects every evening. I say “aspiring.” I will try to stop.
I’m so determined to be a “real writer” that I actually registered with the IRS as a sole proprietorship.
Granted, most of my “business” centers around WEB writing at the moment…or at least it would if I wasn’t having problems with AdSense.
Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to blog about on a semi-regular basis when I’m not NaNoing. And continue setting up that blog….
I think who really needs to read this thing is my folks, though. Their logic is that if I’m not making money at it, it’s just a hobby.
Tax-wise, that may be true, but to my folks, “just a hobby” means there’s plenty of more important things to do (things which don’t have any more pay or guarantee of pay than writing).
Definition of writer: One who writes, especially as an occupation. Note it does not say ONLY as an occupation. I wrote my first story at five or six years of age. At that point, I was a writer. A young, inexperienced writer, whose works were read only by his mother, but a writer none the less. Thank you for giving us a digital smack to the back of the head. No, I do not as yet earn my living as a writer, but I have gotten paid, so by definition I AM a professional writer. This is one butt (giggle) that I have managed to avoid. Thanks again for the great words and inspiration.
OMG, We Are Not Alone! Be bold, be brave, don’t aspire, do! I love it. Thank you! 🙂
This is of course not just true for writers, it is true for just about anyone. The moment you call yourself whatever it is you think you are, want to become or are, you can exude confidence to yourself and others that will ultimately open doors.
We got this bit of advice from a friend who happens to be an author and an agent. She said that if we ever needed to make a business phone call, we should NEVER start the conversation with “we are beginning publishers and have this question” (even if that’s true) but rather “we are with soandso publishing company and need…”
The same goes for writers “I would love to be a writer?” not really… but “I am an author” sure, that makes ME listen!
Thank you Kristen for putting this so nicely and writing it down to remind me of it!
People ask me when I became a writer and I tell them it was when I was about eight years old. I knew that’s what I was going to be! Sherri http://www.sherriwilsonjohnson.com
You are SO right! And thanks for the inspiration.
I think that if you haven’t been published, then you’re an aspiring author. I explain why in the following post:
Reblogged this on Stacie Brown's Head in the Clouds, Nose in a Book and commented:
If you ARE a #writer, then BE a writer.
“I feel many writers fear using a professional title because we invite a new level of accountability. We fear failure and so we hedge with euphemisms like “aspiring author” so that we can goof off and write when the fancy strikes.”
Nail on the head. THANK you for this!