Is a person a writer when they sell their first book or long before that? Is everyone who picks up a pen and scratches words to paper considered a writer? What makes someone a writer?
I'm the type of person who likes to see things bigger than they are. I always believe there is some grand scheme to things and everyone has a unique and important purpose. I picture someone with a gleaming sword knighting each person with a mysterious calling. A calling that perhaps will take them years to unearth themselves, and even longer for other people to acknowledge. If you consider yourself a writer, here is your knighthood: I knight thee writer of books, tamer of words and distributor of precious secrets.
Think way back to exhume the beginnings of your writerhood. When's the first time you ever wrote a short story? When was the first time you ever tried to write a "chapter book?" A novel?
If you are like me it goes way back, or maybe for you it doesn't go so far back. Either way think of your beginnings. Still in pigtails, I remember folding pieces of paper and scribbling something that sounded like a story onto the pages, labeling chapter headings, and then gifting it to my parents. As I grew older, I recall several times staring at the computer screen writing the first few pages of novels that would never materialize. In adulthood I finally grew to be self-disciplined and completed my first novel, and it was so utterly terrible it was laughable. Luckily, I had the good sense to know how awful it was, and believe me it was a stinker, so I wrote it off as a learning experience. I wrote more novels and started to learn how to polish them: Write, rewrite, polish, repeat.
So when did I become a writer?
I think I was always a writer. It didn't matter that at first I thought I was destined to be an actor until I realized I wasn't willing to live off other people's couches for the rest of my life. Then I sought a "real" profession for monetary gain and stability, went to college, and became a marketing professional. It has served me well, but those are all things I did, not necessarily my calling. Long ago when I was in my bedroom talking to the animals in my imaginary kingdom (yes I was a weird kid who didn't just have a single imaginary friend, I had a whole kingdom of invisible friends), I was probably a writer. I was inventing stories I would want to tell someday. I was making characters and talking to them as if they were truly living and breathing. Crazy? Probably. Unique? Absolutely. A writer? Most definitely.
How often do you think about writing?
How many characters spin through your head throughout your day? How many times do people have to repeat something to you because you have climbed into someone else's thoughts and world while you're going about your regular day? How many hours have you poured over the words you have written to improve them, and then rewrite them again and again? If you are doing this. You are a writer. No matter how many books you have sold or haven't sold. Whether you are traditionally published or self-published. Whether you are seeking an agent or at the early stages of your current work in progress. You are a writer. Something inside of you is drawing you to words and stories and ideas, and you can't shake them no matter how hard you try.
Repeat with me: I am a writer.
Maybe you are feeling down or discouraged because you got a bad review, received yet another rejection email from an agent, or are struggling with your work in progress. Whatever stage of your writing journey you are in, just take a deep breath and say to yourself "I am doing this because this is who I am and this is what I want to be." You are a writer.