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Named to "Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites," this #SharingwithWriters blog is a way to connect with my readers and fellow writers, a way to give the teaching genes that populate my DNA free rein. Please feel free to add to the conversation using the very tiny "comment" link. For those interested in editing and grammar, go to http://thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Answer This Question: Are You a Writer? Author?

Today's guest post is from a longtime writing friend, David Leonhardt. I met him years ago when we cross promoted an e-book with about a dozen authors from different countries. He has an author service business--his way of SharingwithWriters--something that we both have a passion for.  I love this article because so many of my clients seem a bit shy about calling themselves a writer or an author. There is something zen about just knowing that you are. And owning it. Then others will, too. Here is David's wisdom!

Is it OK to call yourself a writer?

The scenario plays itself over and over.  Somebody loves to write.  Poetry.  Lyrics.  A diary.  Essays.  Humor.  Whatever.  They love to write.  They have a pile of unfinished manuscripts and notes, maybe even completed manuscripts that they have never shown to anybody, or that they have tried unsuccessfully to sell.

Thousands of people around the world who fancy themselves to be writers.  But, they don’t dare call themselves “a writer”. 

Why? When can you call yourself a writer?

Maybe the first time you get a byline, whether you were paid or not?  That means that somebody else believes your writing is worth publishing, but not worth paying for.

Or perhaps the first time you get paid?  That poem that earned you $10 in a literary review?  That means that somebody believes you wrote something worth paying something for.

Or is it the first time you get a book published?  Ah, that means an actual company, a real business that knows what it’s doing, believes you wrote quite a bit that’s worth paying something for.  Unless you self-publish, in which case…well, would you still be “a writer”?

Or is it the day you quit your day job – the day that enough people believe you wrote quite a bit that’s worth paying something for?

How many people have to believe in you to define who you are?


No, this is not a trick question.  It’s not even a question about writing.  It’s a question about how you define yourself – or more to the point, whom you let define you.

What you do for pay and what gets published in somebody else’s publication says nothing about who you are.  It says everything about who they are.

Let’s take an example of a writer who has a day job moving furniture.  Yes, a writer.  He writes because that is what moves him, what fulfills him, what makes him complete.  That is who he is.  He moves furniture to buy clothes and food and pay rent.  He moves furniture because he doesn’t want to violate public decency laws, has a stomach that growls and is allergic to freezing to death.  That makes him a law-abiding human bent on survival, not a furniture mover.

He moves furniture for a living because there are more people in town who need furniture moved than need to read his poems or essays or fantasy manuscript.

In fact, a good argument could be made that as soon as a person is paid for her writing, she becomes less of a writer, since the writing begins more to define the person or people paying.  I won’t make that argument here, as that would be a whole different debate, and I am not even sure where I stand on it.

Money doesn’t make someone a writer.  Getting paid to write makes a person an entrepreneur.  Perhaps they remain just as much a writer, perhaps not.

When it comes to language definitions, there is plenty of room for honest disagreement.  But I’ve been a writer since I wrote for my high school newspaper, becoming co-editor in my senior year.  I have been a writer of poems and song lyrics on nobody’s payroll.  I have since become a published author and a prolific blogger.  I ghostwrite articles and I have written reports and news releases as an employee and as a freelancer.  I think I have been many writers.

But mostly, I am a writer when I feel that I am.  Because putting words together to express an idea is a huge and defining part of whom I am.

What about skill? Does skill make you a writer?  Please don’t re-read the first Half of this blog post, riddled with sentence fragments and full sentences ending in prepositions.  Skilled or not, I am a writer.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there who are clumsy at everything they do.  There are many people who can’t seem to get their lives together.  There are people who are rude and selfish.  There are all sorts of people who are not very skilled at being human.

They are human.  Skilled or not, they are human.

There are writers who can lead you through the gates of Hell, across the vast expanse of space and into the deepest recesses of your mind.  There are other who make you fall asleep.  They are writers if they say so. 

Sorry, but you don’t get to define them.  Not based on skill.  Not based on money.  Not based on anything.  You get to define you.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,


 “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

Are you a writer?  If not, what are you?  Who are you? What are your thoughts on this?

Guest post by David Leonhardt at THGM Writing Services:
The Happy Guy Marketing
(613) 448-4086 (Canada)
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"Money doesn't make someon a writer. It only makes them a business. Only writing can make you a writer." ~ David Leonhardt, THGM Writing Services

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .


  1. Very inspiring. Personally I think anyone who writes is a writer. I don't think publishing your first book or newspaper or getting paid defines that either, although I'm sure there are those who would disagree. I believe there is a writer in each and every one of us. I am a writer. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes, Brenda, there are a number of people who disagree. But I like to think people can define themselves by their own standards. :-)

  2. @Brenda Lee, you own it, girl! I think most writers are also sharers! It's something they have in common with teachers, healthcare professionals and many others. Add an element of storytelling and you have a different kind of writing, but they're all related.

  3. With a short story published in a local magazine in Osborne, Kansas, 300 plus web content articles, and 120 plus book reviews. I am a writer.

    With four blogs, I am a writer.

    I also help writers with their work as a manuscript editor, back cover blurb writer, press release writer, working on a nonfiction book about freelancing. I am a writer.

    To me, a writer is me, a person who writes.

  4. Bob, you and David are not only writers, you are writers who are of service to other writers!

  5. David, I guess blushing is allowed as long was we can still proudly admit to being a writer, huh?

  6. Hay David Leonhardt,
    Thanks a lot shearing the post & your Exceptional work.It's a great idea for helping any students and teachers.I like it! Really improved anyone writing skills.

  7. I've always thought of a writer as anyone who writes. Once they are paid to do it, they become author.

  8. But, Diane, what if he/she is a journalist who gets paid. Don't think of them as authors. We may have to tweak that definition! (-:

  9. Interesting text from mr. Leonhardt. I think it's different for everybody. I am a grizzled (:-)) Belgian/Flemish author who has published (traditionally) more than 30 books in Holland and Belgium. Some of my work is translated and published in France, Canada and the US. Still, it is hard for me to think of myself as a writer. The reason for that must be found in my youth, I suppose. I'm a selfmade, eh..writer (:-)): I come from a very poor Flemish family and I have had only a limited education. There were virtually no books at home and reading was viewed as "a form of laziness". My dreams were strong, but my mother warned me: publishing books is not "for our kind of people". Against all odds, I published books, won Awards...And still, at almost 62, uncertainty about my "talent" is nagging at me...You're a writer when you're convinced you are one, even though you haven't published anything...Maybe it's my uncertainty that keeps me going and drives me to venture into the vast English reading market...It's all in the head :-) :-)


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