Occupation: Writer, Kind of

Occupation - writer, kind of

I have recently graduated from calling myself a ‘writer, kind of’, to just a writer, without any apology or hesitation.

No big deal, it only took me four years. I had such reservations about this loaded term. When I called myself a writer it felt as if I was making some ostentatious declaration. It was like saying “Please make way for my artistic presence”. The trouble is that I was a writer even when I thought I wasn’t, and it’s only dawning on me now that I’ve been a writer since the day I decided to start writing.

It helps to take in the term without all the artistic fluff that goes along with it. Pop culture has turned the occupation into something so much more glamorous, exciting and romantic than many everyday writers could ever hope to be.

The reality is that most of us are working for the man, getting paid a pittance and leaning our cheeks against our palms wondering if our big break will ever come. Calling yourself a writer was hard for me (and hard for certain people I know too) because it’s a role that you have to work up to.

A writer is many things – a thinker, a dreamer, an inventor, an individual whose inspiration and ideas come from their heart and their mind. The term is dreamy, escapist and vested in all those experiences we want to express to the world but can’t.

Writers find it hard to call themselves writers because they have an image to live up to.

I never used to be able to look someone in the eye and say “Hello, I’m a writer”, simply because I felt like it was so pretentious. I need to remind myself that it’s a legitimate job. It mightn’t pay much and there’s not always a lot of work in it, but it’s a real occupation. That’s something I never fully realised until recently.

I used to have my judgments about those who unabashedly labelled themselves writers or artists. Part of me was envious of their confidence and another part of me was critical of it. Silently, I’d come to my conclusions about whether they were worthy or not based on their experience and professional reception. If they weren’t published then I didn’t take them seriously. I know how arrogant that sounds but if you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

Nowadays, I realise that a writer’s identity is much simpler than that romantic hunched figure brooding behind a desk. A writer is anyone who enjoys writing and does it on the regular. It’s anyone who prefers writing over other mediums in self-expression. It can be anyone who simply identifies with the term. You don’t even have to have things published in order to ratify the truthfulness of your title. A professional writer might be someone who practices writing on a higher tier and receives financial gain from their work. But emerging writers and professional writers both leap from the same page. They are both using words, shifting them across the page and painting reality with text. It doesn’t take a professional writer to create something worthwhile and fantastic.

The sooner one can define oneself in what they enjoy doing, the more confident they are in doing whatever that is. When I shifted my weight from side to side in answer to the question, “What do you do?” it would’ve made me seem unsure and insecure about what I did. I was never unsure or insecure about my enjoyment of writing and wanting to pursue a career in it. All I was insecure about was how other people would receive such a grandiose term.

Well, it’s not that grand at the end of the day. It’s only an act of self-expression. You can be a writer – and a good one too – without conforming to any of those stereotypes about what a writer should be. Now all that is to me is ego stroking and that’s not something writers in general are fond of.

I used to think to myself, I can only call myself a writer after I’ve had a dozen articles published in different publications. Deciding to call oneself a writer is something that is more personal and subjective than that. I held myself back with such solid and tangible criteria when I could’ve skipped all the measuring and cut straight to the chase.

So yes, I do call myself a writer now, without the ums and uhs that would have followed out of my insecurity years ago. There’s nothing more to it than that. I’m a writer. Full stop.


About Yalei Wang

Writer based in Tokyo.

2 responses to “Occupation: Writer, Kind of”

  1. Gemma O'Hagan says :

    What a great article – really something I needed to read. I’m also pretty bad for correcting people when THEY call me a writer, e.g. “Oh, no, I’m not a WRITER, I’ve just written some stuff.”

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  1. Writ(h)ing for Attention | Ricochet - February 4, 2014

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