Unless you’ve lived under a rock your whole life, I’m assuming you’ve at least seen parts of the Will Ferrell comedy, “Anchorman.” (If not, netflix it. You can thank me later.)

Anyway, there’s a scene in the film when Will Ferrell’s character is reading his teleprompter during a news cast and someone’s slipped a question mark at the end of his sendoff: “I’m Ron Burgundy?” so he reads it like a question, which comes off as if he’s unsure that’s his name. It’s just one of the many funny moments in the film, but after recently catching it on TBS I got to thinking…

That’s kind of how I respond when I tell someone I’m a writer – not necessarily like it’s a question, but still with a level of uncertainty. Some of my fellow MFA girls at Hollins and I have discussed this before: when is it okay to call yourself a writer/novelist/etc.? I’ve read some definitions before that claim one is a writer, even if she never shares her written work with anyone other than herself. I disagree. I don’t think you can really call yourself a “writer” until you’ve shared your work with others, whether just your family and friends, or fellow writing buddies. Writing is an art form and if you’re serious about it, I think it’s meant to be shown to the world.

So going along with that POV, I should be able to say, “damn straight, I’m a writer!” and not think twice about it, considering I’ve shared my writing with classmates and professors at Hollins, with writer friends, and with a few family members. Not to mention in a couple short weeks, I’ll be querying agents, doing my best to share my work with many, many more people. So why then do I pause? What makes me feel almost like I’m fibbing when I tell someone that’s what I do?

I think it’s because I have this preconceived notion (that’s been there long before I entered the MFA program or seriously considered making a go of it in the writing world) that “writer” is just another word for “author” or “novelist.” They all mean the same thing. And, going by that line of thinking, I wouldn’t be a writer because I’m not a published author. But for argument’s sake, let’s pull the “writer” term out of the mix. Now we’re down to “author” & “novelist.” Are they the same thing? Do you have to be a published author to consider yourself a novelist? This is where it gets really tricky for me. As I’ve said before, I have finished my first manuscript (my YA thesis). Granted I’m still in the editing process with my advisor, but that’s beside the point that I’ve written an entire novel-length story from start to finish. So, then, would that make me a novelist, even though my manuscript isn’t published (or as of yet on the road to publication)?

I’m really torn. My gut tells me that no, I shouldn’t call myself a novelist until I’ve done one or more of the following: secured an agent, secured a publisher, published my novel. But I know there are some even in my program that disagree. Some already refer to themselves as novelists, even though they’re in the same boat as I am. So who’s right and who’s wrong? Or is it a rhetorical question? I’d love to hear any opinions on this!

I think for now I’m going to just refer to myself as a writer. My goal is to try to stop questioning it or feeling weird about that proclamation.

Damn straight, I’m a writer!!!

Hmm. That wasn’t too hard… 🙂