When do you call yourself a writer?
A few days ago, I read a comment on another blog by a woman who called herself a writer and then noted “(as opposed to an author).” And it got me thinking about the semantics of what to call yourself when you do write words down for a living.
The word “writer” has certain connotations, after all. I used to shun the title “writer” when I was a reporter. I was a reporter, after all. I reported, and then I wrote down what I learned. The title “writer” seemed too grandiose for what I was doing. Also, it seemed a little pompous. Journalism is a trade, in many people’s minds. Journalists often view themselves as craftsmen, not artists. Therefore, if you declared yourself to be a writer, instead of a reporter or a journalist, it almost seemed like you were equating your work with art. Or as if you weren’t willing to do the hard work of being a journalist. As if you wanted to keep your hands clean and just write in a nice air-conditioned office, as opposed to sweating in a school parking lot on a blazing hot afternoon and interviewing parents about their reaction to the lockdown that happened earlier that day.
I’m not really a reporter anymore. I have a shirt from the Newseum that proclaims, “Trust me. I’m a reporter.” And I’m a little embarrassed to wear it now. No, I’m not worried that someone’s going to sneer at me or throw rotten tomatoes at me. I’m worried that someone will ask me, “Hey, where are you a reporter?” And then I’d have to stammer and fumble for words and then say, “Well, I’m freelancing these days….”
But really, is that fair? For example, when I write an article about the national nursing shortage for NurseZone.com, that involves a fair amount of reporting. When the article is published on the website, I am usually listed as a contributing writer. But I had to do some reporting, as well as writing, to get that article posted in the first place. So why couldn’t I call myself a reporter? I don’t have a good answer to that question.
I’m not an author, have never been an author. But it still feels a little weird to just blithely refer to myself as a “writer.” I even felt a little weird when I created the title for this blog and used the word. But that’s what I am. I am a writer. I write for money. I write for fun. Occasionally, I write for a good cause for charity. I do some reporting, so I could probably still call myself a reporter (in some circles). So I’m still getting used to calling myself a writer, even though I’ve been writing for years. I finally realized that it was okay, though, when I asked my young son if he knew what his mother did for a living, and he said, “You’re a writer.”
So, trust me. I’m a (gulp) writer.