When – Exactly – Does a Writer Become a ‘Published’ Writer?

Here’s an interesting question I’d love to hear some thoughts on:

When exactly does a writer become a published writer?

These days, in the world of traditional publishing, e-publishing, self-publishing, making money, paying money, losing money, blogging, copywriting, freelancing, and a hundred other factors I could probably list, at what point is a writer considered published?

It seems a given that, were I to ask a traditionally published author and their traditional publisher, that the answer would be, of course, the writer who has successfully passed through the extensive review and judgment process typically enforced by the traditional publishing world. And while I agree with including such authors, I would argue that there are many others who should be included within this elite group of people.

I commented on a blog today as to what I believe constitutes a ‘writer’ in the first place. Allow me to indulge:

When we’re talking about anything creative – writing, painting, music, design, etc. – the concept of ‘real’ does not apply. Anybody can (attempt to) do any of these things. I would think, then, that the more important clarification is, “Yeah, but are they any good at it?”

And because ‘quality’ of creation is purely subjective, the whole idea of qualifying one’s talent becomes moot. It is experience – and the knowledge and wisdom that come with it – above all that defines us.

I went to L’Universite du Quebec and learned to speak French. I was 18, away from home for the first time, in a province where I was suddenly legally able to drink. After all was said and done, it turned out that I didn’t need the actual ‘Certificat’ to prove I could speak French. (Thankfully!)

If I create and print a document that looks exactly like a law degree and hang it on my wall, I am no closer to being a lawyer than I was yesterday. There’s a process.

The greatest creation is that of life. Anyone can become a mother/father. But the true test of ability comes when mother/father become mom/dad. It’s the process that matters.

To my adopted children, I am legally mother. It is the process – the time, the effort, the pain, the passion – that makes me their mom.

Having written two novels – neither of which I ever intended to publish – I now call myself a writer. I lived those stories, created those characters, loved them, and missed them terribly in the end. I experienced the process that saw me sitting at my keyboard prepared to write my hero and heroine into their first kiss. I can’t explain my fascination as I watched them start to bicker, get angry at each other, and stomp off in different directions. I can’t explain how it felt to watch my words take on a life beyond my own imagination. But every writer out there knows exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s the process that makes one a writer – of any style, genre, and form. In whatever fashion one chooses to express him or herself through the written word, no matter how often, how much, how good, or how bad, one becomes a writer by writing.

Publishing, in any form, is irrelevant.

It’s just a convenient way for us to try to measure what kind of writer you are.

And so, with that said, how then do we measure the talent of a writer? What are the criteria? Does it matter any more?


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Filed under For Writers, Just a Thought

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