What Defines a Writer?

On Finding a Solution to the Equation

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.” — Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury began his writing career when he was in his teens after having been rejected by the military due to poor eye sight. He didn’t have a formal education in writing. Dude just knew he wanted to write.

He started by writing short stories he’d mail out and wait patiently for rejection. His first story was published when he was 19 years old but it wasn’t until in 1941, at age 21, a story was compensated for the first time. He was paid $13.75 by Pendulum Press.

He sold newspapers, hustling a street corner in Los Angeles to support himself as he went full steam ahead dedicated, passionate and determined. He read obsessively, went to the theater and wrote one short story each week.

During his 72 year writing career, Bradbury had over 500 published works. 97 novels or short stories were transformed into movies or television shows. On June 4, 2012 his essay Take Me Home was published in The New Yorker. It would be his last story. Bradbury died the next day, a legend. His net worth was over 30 million dollars.

What makes a writer a writer?

Is a writer defined by educational status?

Is a writer defined by whether or not they’re financially profiting?

Is a writer defined by whether or not they’ve been published?

Is a writer defined by influence and readership?

Is a writer defined by popularity?

Is a writer defined by passion and drive?

Is a writer defined by their contribution to the world?

Is a writer defined by whether they write for themselves or others, neither or both?

Before leaving the media, these are the questions I asked myself and researched. I needed to know for myself what defines me as a writer. I was fully aware no longer writing for the media would be a risk, but I also believed it was doable if it were a calculated risk.

I would no longer have steady income, if any income at all. Regardless of feeling socially awkward, I’d have to step outside my comfort zone and promote myself and my work.

I would no longer be told which stories and articles to write (or not to write) and any contribution I’ve made to the world through the media would become links buried pages deep inside of Google.

It was scary shit to think about.

When I respond with “I’m a writer,” when asked what I do for a living I receive one of two reactions.

People assume I’m a mega superstar even though I have zero superstar status. This reaction indicates writing equates to fame. Or people assume it’s not a real occupation since I’m not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.

Consensus

I used a tally system to narrow down the three most often repeated themes I read when researching.

The themes are:

To be a writer you must have a following.

To be a writer you must have an email list.

To be a writer you must be published whether independent or traditional.

I read a great deal of blog posts from a wide variety of writers who say:

If you write, call yourself a writer.

Give yourself permission to call yourself a writer and then you will be a writer.

The #1 step to becoming a writer is to write.

Information Overload

I didn’t discover an answer to my question, if anything there are too many answers. This equates to being no more knowledgeable than I was when I began my research.

I decided to define my own meaning by process of trial and error. It’s no different than science. Create a testable hypothesis and if it’s proven true you have a theory. Disproven- not so much.

I woke this morning at 5:00 AM to the evil pitch of my alarm clock. I drag my weighted ass from bed. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee hangs in the air as I sat down at my laptop.

I begin writing.

Now, who is my target audience?

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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