But am I really a writer?

My first blog asked ‘Am I now a Writer?’ Readers charmingly chimed in saying I write so by definition am A Writer. I didn’t quite believe them.

The question has continued to haunt me. My Facebook and Twitter profiles have picked up followers who are undoubtedly Writers. Every time I’ve used ‘writer’ of myself, or (worse) ‘author’, I’ve felt unworthy. Truth told, I’ve waited for Real Writers to point and laugh.

As I’ve waited, here’s what I’ve wanted to say:

I know, Author Friends, that I’m not up there with you. You’ve been paying your dues for twenty years. (I know!) You committed to this financially while I was being a management consultant. You’ve won prizes. You have readers. You drink whisky and feel depressed and when you do you walk the dog. You’re professionals and posturing amateurs can irritate you like hell.

You, I wish to reassure them, are really writers. (There, there.) But please bear with me if I try out the title on myself as well – I have, after all, written one novel and I’m writing another. I know I haven’t got there: I wouldn’t dare compare. But a girl’s got to start somewhere.

Not being insane, I haven’t said all of this out loud: instead I’ve put out my authorly updates and suffered feeling like an imposter.

This has been going on for a number of months; and I’ve been finding it somewhat wearing. But then the moment of enlightenment came:

I am a Level One Author.

The taxonomy is as follows:

Aspirant Writer: Anyone at all who says, ‘God, I would love to write. How do you find the time?’ Aspirants may also have shelves stacked with books on writing; read blogs about writing; buy magazines that tell them how to pitch their writing; sign up for writing courses. They may or may not be recently retired. Critically, no Aspi ever actually writes.

Apprentice Writer: The people whose friends tell them warmly, ‘You write so of course you are a writer’. Apprentices may currently be enrolled on a writing course and doing the homework; may have a blog; may write longer than usual Facebook posts. They typically carry a notepad (usually a Moleskine) in handbag or backpack. Apprentice writers write, but sporadically and in snippets. They have either not finished or not published anything; or they did so too long ago to count (in which case they may have slipped back down to Aspi).

Level One Author: A writer who has finished a book and has it out there for readers to read. This category may also apply to writers of multiple published articles or poems, or those who write regularly on other people’s blogs. Writing your own blog does not count. Having the launch date of your debut novel in the near future qualifies you.

Level Two Author: As for ‘Level One’ but has demonstrated commitment by having multiple books out. Can also include those making their living from writing articles, but they will probably prefer to label themselves Journalists not Authors anyway.

Level Three Author: Writers who have received a degree of external success. This could be measured financially (though probably won’t be), in weight of acclaim, or by number of readers. This level has a number of sublevels encompassing the spectrum from New York Times bestseller list through long-listed for the Booker and ending at winning the Nobel Prize/being Stephen King.

Level Four Author: Writers people still read when they are dead. (You will never know if you make this level. Hard luck.)

Footnote 1: Author levels three and four take into account external success. Please note further that there are other forms of success. Self-esteem as a writer can occur at all or none of the levels.

Footnote 2: Self-publishing is allowed at all levels.

Anyway, I am happy to announce myself as at Author Level One. (I spent many years at Aspi and Apprentice as well.) Plenty of you are more accomplished than me. I know it; I’m not trying to crowd your space. I may be five, or ten, or twenty years behind you. Or on a different trajectory altogether. But I’ve earned the right to call myself A Writer. Knowing that gives me an impetus to carry on putting words on the page – and keep pushing towards Level Two.

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