What is a writer?

I’ve been seeing this question pop up ever more frequently, usually as I browse writer’s forums and writer’s blogs.  Most of them are saying that they consider themselves writers, because of their ‘passion’ for writing, or their desire to write, not because of how much they write.

I started to wonder.  What exactly IS the definition of a writer?  The dictionary isn’t much help, or rather, it gives us a new problem.  As per Mr. Webster, a writer is:

1. someone whose work is to write books, poems, stories, etc.

2. someone who has written something

Well, the new problem is this:  the first one seems to indicate a career, or if not a career, at least considering writing to be more than something to do when bored.  What the consider to be their work, in other words.  The second indicates a far, far wider range of people, in simplest essence, anyone who has taken pen to paper.  If we wish to be slightly more selective and assume it to mean written something in a literary vein, this includes everyone who has every written a book, poem, or story, no matter how long ago.

Perhaps, I thought, when we say “writer”, we are thinking of a literary writer, in other words, something more along the lines of the first option, but less job-oriented.  So I looked up the word “author”.

Not quite as useless an answer, but still highly ambiguous.

1. a person who has written something; especially : a person who has written a book or who writes many books

2.  a person who starts or creates something

The first would seem to indicate that an author is someone who writes books.  The second is merely the originator of something.  Not a whole lot of help.  Perhaps if we can combine the twain, we can come up with a more satisfying answer.  Maybe, when we say writer, we actually mean a writing author.  If that is true, then by “writer” we mean “someone who writes books, poems and stories as work”.  In this case, we mean “work” to be something a little more than something to stave off boredom, something that takes effort.  It does not necessarily need to include a career or job.

This might exclude some people who consider themselves to be writers, but do not write regularly, or with any particular intent.  Professional, published authors might be averse to having non-dedicated hobbyists calling themselves writers.  However, in the absence of a specific meaning to for the idea, “writer” will have to cover a great many meanings.

Anyway, to apply a specific definition to who can be called a writer and who cannot would be a true shame.  To regulate the concept of “writer” would be to essentially ruin the freedom of writing. If you think you are a writer, there’s a good chance you are.  If you’re not, it’s extremely unlikely that anyone will ever need to contradict you.

Just write.  You’re probably a writer.

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