Should I Call Myself A Writer?

Oh, how I hate how this question leers at me, and I hate how I feel when someone smiles and says politely, “So, what do you do?”

‘Oh crud, crud, crud. What do I say?!?’ I can feel blood rise to my face and air refuse to fill my lungs.

To say, “I write” makes me feel like a failure, and a fraud, and just downright flaky.

And to add that “r” to the end of “write” – well, that’s just hard.

I’m ashamed to say I want to be a writer and constantly battling unseen accusations so common with “imposter-syndrome”.

On the other side of the coin, many people who were reading my posts during my mom’s fight with pancreatic cancer told me, “You have a gift – you should write! You need to write a book!”

In those moments, I blush with even more shame and frustration, knowing how many manuscripts are hidden away on my hard drive. I have written books; but fear, the inability to figure out publishing technicalities, and a lack of time have kept me from putting my words into actual print.

I know I write. I’ve written the equivalent of War and Peace many times over.

I write.

I just have a hard time saying, “I’m a writer”.

That “R” is so hard to add. “Y” is that?

A lot of it probably comes down to money.

I have sown little, and I have reaped even less. Investing in myself is a scary thing.

I have started to spend some money on my writing; but at this point, I see only very tiny leaps in monetary return. If I was going to school to be something, that would be understandable. In some ways, I feel like I am in school all over again, facing subjects like Social Media, Analytics, Search Analysis, etc… things that are way outside my comfort spectrum that I’m having to warm to, because of the way publishing works these days.

Maybe it would be safer to tell people, “I’m studying to be a writer.” That would be the truth. I’m reading about writing, practicing writing, refining my writing, making connections with writers, etc…

Perhaps if I looked at becoming a writer the way that other, more socially-accepted career paths are seen, I wouldn’t be so hesitant. Most med school and law school students sign up for years of bookwork and debt before they ever see a dime “in the black” on their student loans.

They have to believe they will make something of themselves to face all those bills and sleepless nights studying.

When someone asks, “What do you do?” and the response is, “I’m a doctor,” or “I’m a lawyer,” there’s usually an instant sense of respect, despite having no idea how skilled or successful the person is.

A lawyer isn’t grilled with the questions:

“Well, have you won any cases?”

“Are you actually practicing law?”

“What is your salary?”

A doctor doesn’t deal with people probing for more details like:

“Are your surgeries successful?”

“Is your practice thriving?”

“How many people have you cured?”

Doctors and lawyers often achieve respect, just by their title, with no proof that their skills are even decent.

Why do writers often struggle with feeling “less-than” for attempting a career goal which is really pretty gutsy and takes a great deal of behind-the-scenes work to be successful?

Another part of my struggle is that I’ve gone through long seasons when I couldn’t write. I didn’t have time, didn’t have solitude, didn’t have the endurance – everything was shifting and changing – especially in times of intensely caring for others, like when my mom was in the last stages of pancreatic cancer. There was no room for proper concentration.

Calling myself a writer during those circumstances seemed ludicrous…

…But doctors and lawyers don’t lose their credentials by deciding not to practice.

What about writers?

When Jane Austen struggled through all those seasons when she couldn’t write (because of too many distractions) and struggled to get her womanly foot in the door of a publisher’s office,
was she not a real writer?

How Should I Respond When People Ask If I’ve Written A Book?

Ugh. I hate writing (or reading) that three-letter-word; but it so clearly sums up my confusing situation, so I’ll say it again: Ugh.

Apparently, I can’t even get “onomatopoeia” right – I’ve always pronounced it “ono-mona-pe-ah” and just now re-discovered the real spelling writing this post.
I’m sure I won’t retain the proper components from the alphabet; because I’m embarrassed to say, I still have a hard time with the number of “r”s and “s”s in the word embarrassed.

It’s hard enough to say, “I’m a writer” – I’d never say, “I’m a speller” – there are so many words where I still rely on the red squiggly lines generated by my computer…

But let’s get back to the question people keep asking me, “Have you written any books?”

To be honest, I have written lots of books; but I only have two on Amazon right now, and those two are more practical “How To” type practice runs… (You can click here to see my rather neglected Amazon Page).

I’m realizing that I should relax and answer the question, “Have you written a book?” directly instead of over-analyzing the implications.

Yes. Yes, I have. I have written lots of books.

Maybe it’s a matter of the unspoken follow-up questions that scare me.

“Are you published?”

“Do people read your books?”

“Are you able to make a living as an author?”

Perhaps, in the interest of full disclosure, I should just answer this here. I’d like this site to encourage people in their writing, and I know a lot of the discouragement and hurdles I’m facing are common to aspiring authors, so I’ll just go ahead and deal with what I get asked on a gut honest level.

“Are you published?”


And No.

And, “I’m not sure.”

What Do I Say When People Ask if I’ve Published Anything?

Every time I post an article on this blog, I have to hit this blue button with the word Publish:

Deciding to write is one thing.  Publishing, to make our work public, is a much different matter.

Does tapping that blue “Publish” button mean “I’m published”?

Isn’t that a little like patting myself on the back? It’s not like any company is telling the public that what I have to say is worth reading. Anybody can buy a website domain and start a blog…

Does self-publishing through sites like Amazon KDP count when it comes to calling someone an author?

I hesitate to say yes or no.

There are a lot of people who started out as Indie-publishers that I respect; but it can still feel a bit like somebody printing a generic certificate off the internet, hanging it on their wall and declaring themself a doctor or lawyer, despite having no formal training.

Self-publishing has become more and more popular; but it can make the water murky when it comes to people inquiring about our work.

A lot of times, I don’t feel like my books on Amazon count, because I still only have the kindle versions available.

The technical issues that arise from formatting have intimidated me, and time constraints have also been a hindrance.

Enduring this season of serial-hospice experiences and the grief that has come from saying goodbye to so many people I love has kept my writing schedule at bay; but I shouldn’t get frustrated by this, because it has also shaped my work.

“Do people read your books?”

Most of my books haven’t been seen by another soul.

Of the two I have on Amazon, “Riding the Train: That’s How I Roll” barely sells at all, and thus far “Quitting the Gym: How I Threw in the Towel” seems about as desirable to readers as a discarded towel on a locker room floor.

I haven’t really let people read the books that are actually close to my heart, and those I’ve presented publicly have been lost in a sea of manuscripts somewhere in the cyber-world. I wonder just how many books are available on Amazon. Why would anybody pick mine?

Having my writing discovered seems like the proverbial needle in a haystack.

I’ve heard for years that I need to be involved in Social Media to promote my work; but I’ve balked at that.

I’ve had books that are a decade old that no one batted an eye at; but when my mom got sick, and I started posting about her condition, people seemed ravenous to hear how she was doing.

It was kind of a sickening confusion to feel like my writing was finally being recognized and validated; but that the success had come about as a product of immense pain.

My mom’s pancreatic cancer, and caring for her until her death, became my subject matter. It took over my writing sessions. Sometimes I resented that. At other times, pouring my pain into updating people on our journey was the greatest form of therapy. God used it to grant me more resiliency than I had when my mom’s brother died in 2019.

When he died, I didn’t even own a computer; but his death was what opened the floodgate for my words. I spent day after day typing and crying and trying not to drip snot on the keyboard he’d once used. I decided to “invest in myself” by buying the cheapest laptop I could find at Walmart, which was really more like a tablet with a keyboard attached, and a copy of Al Watt’s “The 90 Day Novel”.

I was going to give myself three months to write one book about Wabash. That was nearly four years ago, and many manuscripts have followed…

I’m rambling now. Back to the question.

“Do people read your books?”

Not those books.

Not the ones since Danny died.

I’m still working out the details – and trying to gather the courage; but they are what I most want to say. They seem like my life’s purpose.

“Are you able to make a living as an author?”

This is funny.

I am still alive.

There is substantial evidence that I’m not a “starving artist”. Well, maybe not “substantial”; but I can very much identify with the front of the Rice Chex box when it says, “Now 10% More!” So, I’m not starving.

I’m not making six figures, that’s for sure. In September of 2022 I only made six cents on Amazon KDP. It doesn’t take a sixth sense to know that’s not a good sign for future success, yet I knew I had done absolutely nothing in the realm of marketing my work.

I like to sell; but self-promotion makes me petrified.

I decided if I wanted to be serious about being a writer, then I at least needed to start a website to have a landing page.

Somehow, I went way beyond that by enrolling in something called Project 24. The learning curve has been a little crazy, especially in the midst of my mom’s care; but hey – my sales have jumped exponentially:

In six months, my Amazon sales went up 13,833 percent, while I was using Project 24!!!

(I think I did the math right on that – I would not call myself a “mathematician”! – especially since I just misspelled it.)

Major Disclaimer: I wouldn’t call myself a writing success story yet, either (my Amazon sales
jumped from $.06 in September of 2022 to a whopping $8.36 in April of 2023);
but I’m making progress, and I think that has a lot to do with
working through the steps of Project 24.
I want to be honest about my starting point,
to encourage others facing the same sort of uphill climb.

Nobody actually asks me if I’m making a living as an author (and obviously earning $8.36 a month isn’t covering all of my expenses); but I’m finally seeing that the work I do outside of writing contributes a lot to my content. I’m seeing those hours spent on other things as part of the story, instead of hindrances to having time to write.

If you write, I believe it’s alright to call yourself a writer.

If people are now claiming Artificial Intelligence computer programs like ChatGPT can be “writers”, why can’t you and I be writers, too? (Again with the spelling issues, the first time I heard about this issue, I thought it was called, “Chad” and was like, “Who’s he?” If you don’t know either, you can read what I learned by clicking here).

Sometimes My Writing is What Most Gets in the Way of My Publishing

I tend to not have a cut off date, or a word count limit, or any kind of posting or publishing schedule that forces my writing into the world. I’m trying to add those disciplines into my life. I had much more to say in this post, and many more subheadings; but I’m going to save them for another day. Otherwise, I know all of these words will just wind up being another unfinished draft bogging down future creativity.

What about you?

What are the internal struggles that attack when people ask “What do you do?”

If you write, is it hard for you to call yourself a writer?

Please leave a comment down below.

If you’re struggling with writer’s block, you might benefit from reading this post.


I'm not sure what to say here: I once got second place in a dog-look-alike-contest? I know how to fold a fitted sheet? I'm pretty much a poster child for social backwardness - at least as far as social media is concerned; but I have some stories I think I'm supposed to share and am attempting to do that here, in this space.

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