It’s too bad writing isn’t more like karate. You would receive a new color belt as you master: grammar, punctuation, voice, tenses, settings, plot, theme, structure, and so on. When you run into a fellow writer on the street you then could square off with trash talk from a bad kung fu movie, “your words are weak old man, now we write! or you killed my manuscript now you die!”
So, when can you say your a writer? Do you need a college degree? To be published? Is it your bread and butter job or just something on the side?
In the food service profession there is a difference between a cook and a chef. This often (but not always) involves schooling. I have worked with some great chefs who did not have any culinary schooling and I have worked with some great cooks who would not call themselves a chef even though their food is chef quality. I feel we can rule schooling out.
There are three components to calling yourself a writer. First you must be writing. It doesn’t have to be 3000 words a day, every day, 365 days a year but it should be a pretty constant output of words to paper. Scripture says, “you will know them by the fruit that they produce.” A writer will write at work, on vacation, driving in their car (not recommended), pretty much everywhere. If you know a writer you can be assured that while it seems they are giving you their full attention, they are thinking about how they would describe you in a book. We often feel the magnetic pull to our computer that we should be writing.
The other component for being a writer is that you are a reader. The written word is something you are passionate about. A great story is something you love to read. When you hear two people talking about a story they loved you will want to track that story down and read it for yourself. The Girl with All the Gifts I read because I heard two writers talking about how good it was and they were correct it is a well written story.
A writer who is not reading at least one book is just a hobbyist. Most writers I know have multiple books going in different genres, different platforms, and prefer books over other activities (especially work!).
Writers enjoy reading about the craft and God forbid talking about grammar and punctuation.
If writing and reading doesn’t float your boat then you are not a writer.
But wait Warren, you said there is three components to being a writer. Ah grasshopper number three is for a future post.