Do you hesitate to call yourself a writer because no one pays you to do it, or at least not for the kind of writing you want to do?
Are you writing catalog copy when you know you have a literary novel in you dying to get out? How about the technical writer who dreams of writing short stories while he sits all day in a cubicle crafting instructions simple enough for a layperson to understand?
Maybe you read manuscripts for an agency by day and go home to scribble the next great script for a movie or television series. Do you proofread other people’s copy for a print or digital media outlet and spend your lunch hour making notes for that sci-fi trilogy you’re halfway through?
First of all, if you’re lucky enough to do any of these day jobs I mention, take that in for a moment. If you work in any field related to the written word, be grateful. Wait, don’t just be grateful – realize that thousands of writers would love to have your job – and go in tomorrow and write the best damn description for the newest coffee machine you can. Is it just black with silver trim? No, it’s charcoal or maybe midnight, trimmed in industrial grey or perhaps oyster!
Editing other people’s work may seem tedious, but what better practice to ensure the ‘real’ writing you want to do is spot-free of errors? If you earn your paycheck by reading other writer’s manuscripts, you’re enrolled in your own personal MFA program; an all-day immersion into voice, theme and setting.
So are you a writer?
It’s been almost exactly one year since writing was a regular part of my day job (and not the uber-creative type of writing – I wrote training manuals, COP’s, SOP’s and corporate newsletters for the company where I worked) and I miss it terribly. And by the way, that was in addition to my regular management job. I offered to do these things as a creative outlet, because when all is said and done, I’m a writer.