On labels

What is your definition of a “writer”? This question interests me because I’m someone who writes regularly, and yet I feel uncomfortable claiming the label of “writer.” I’ve read other bloggers who say they are not writers, and I’ve retorted, “yes, you are!” and yet I’ve said the same thing about myself, quite recently even. It feels easy enough to call someone else a writer, but to call myself one is different.

I think claiming the label is difficult because of all the associations I (we?) bring to the term — a writer is someone who writes for a living, or someone who aspires to write for a living, someone, at least, who is working toward that status. A writer is someone who gets published, or who aims to get published, in print or online places that have some kind of selection or peer review process. A writer … I don’t know … is a much more serious person when it comes to language and writing habits than I am.

And yet, what does it mean to be a blogger exactly? Bloggers write regularly, many of them take a lot of care with their language, some of them aspire to write for a living. Can one call oneself a writer, if writing is a hobby? If it’s done purely for fun, with no professional interest? I suppose claiming the label indicates a kind of seriousness and a certain self-regard that I, and I suspect others, tend to shy away from.

I have the same question about the term “athlete.” I don’t feel like I’m an athlete, exactly, and yet … I compete and I train and I take my riding seriously. I devote a lot of time to it, and I care about it. But I’m not a professional athlete, and there’s the trouble with claiming the label. It’s not a career or something I do full-time.

I have no problem saying I’m athletic, or saying that I write; the problem is saying “I’m an athlete and a writer.” It’s the amateur status, the fun of it, the free time I use for it that makes both endeavors seem not quite serious enough to justify the label.

As far as blogging goes, I wonder if this discomfort with the writer label has something to do with the strange and new status of a blog. When someone blogs, it can be for a range of reasons — from keeping in touch with friends to honing a writing voice or attracting new readers, sometimes to the blogger’s published writing — to increase sales of a novel, for example. And people can write fiction this way too — purely for personal pleasure and kept private or for the sake of publication. But blogs are available to the public from the beginning, and so bloggers are blurring the line between writing done for private pleasure and writing done for a reading public. And every time I post something, Blogger calls it “publishing.”

So does blogging automatically make one a writer? Is being a writer the same as writing regularly?

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Filed under Blogging, Cycling, Writing

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