I've been learning. A lot. About writing and how to improve mine. There's still a LONG way to go, I know. I am far, far from being expert or even particularly good.
So that led me to wonder: when does one actually feel comfortable calling oneself a 'writer'?
Writing was just a hobby before. Something I'd always loved.
I sent 80AD in to half a dozen publishers, unsolicited, and got no responses. Probably because I didn't know how to format or what to write on the query letter. But who knows. Maybe it's awful and they all hated it.
So I e-published. And was astonished at the response. Over 300000 downloads of the whole series and it was in I-books top 100 for over a year.
that's pretty cool, I think. Not really having anything to compare it to, I don't know for sure.
They are up for free, because a) I had no confidence and b) I wanted to get them to an audience that had no credit cards - kids.
So does that make me a writer?
I recently went to a writers conference. It was excellent - full of interesting people, fascinating insight, excellent 'how to' tips and tricks. Worthwhile. But...
(Now here's where I have to apologise if I offend anyone who attended, because I really did love it and very much liked everyone I met.)
Being a newb at these conferences, I found it uncomfortable to meet new people and had to force myself to strike up conversations. Luckily, everyone was kind and polite. I was also (being insecure) watching reactions, perfectly aware that I did so in order to try and see where I stood in the hierarchy.
Because, as I discovered, there is a hierarchy. A 'Published author' means printed, paper copies done by a recognised publishing house, and is accorded much respect. E-books on their own are not as highly acclaimed though I suspect that may change over the next decade, though. Free books do not thrill writers, unless they're a lost leader to a chargeable series. (I totally understand as good, free writing sets unfair expectations in the minds of readers)
Writers who are earning a living from their craft also get higher cred than those who aren't - which is perfectly fair, really. They've worked freaking hard and ought to be respected for that.
What does all this mean? It means that writers are human. Often better-read, more self-aware and usually pretty damned intelligent, they are still subject to the ancient genetics of tribal/primate-troupe mentality. We still want to know who's the alpha and where we fit in. We still judge people, only it's on what they've written, what they've earned from it and how it's published.
I love learning from these amazing people, but I don't want to get caught up in the 'published-or-not' thinking. I just want to write. I don't want to spend hours scouring websites for story competitions to enter, or publishing houses to send manuscripts to. I don't want to angst over whether my story is deemed good enough by an editor I've never even met. I don't want to be judged by other writers based on whether I have a book in paper or in e-format.
So by the end of the conference, when asked the question 'so what do you write', I would answer 'nothing significant. I'm just learning'. Not through false modesty, because I am quite proud of what I've done and what I'm learning. It was because I really don't want to be compared to anyone else out there, inevitable though that is.
Do I care? Of course. Anyone who's on social media and says they don't care about what others think is... well, possibly unaware of the irony.
I'd rather not care, though.
I just want to write.
Getting published would just be a nice bonus.
I live in Australia - which tells you I have a sense of humour. We're a self-deprecating people, we Aussies. My aim is to, one day, vanish in a blinding flash of enlightenment. In the mean time, I'm doing my best to learn as many