I follow a lot of authors on Twitter, and many of them describe themselves as “aspiring authors.” Now, perhaps these people are sitting around in their bedrooms and offices, dreaming about writing but never actually sitting down at the computer and getting words down. Maybe they fantasize about what it would be like to come up with a story idea, to develop a character, to write page after page, plotting and planning, but they never actually do it. If that is the case, then they are right; they are aspiring authors. But it seems that most of them are actually writing. They have a work in progress or a first draft. Some of them have even self-published a book. And yet they continue to call themselves aspiring authors. So, what’s going on here?
I think a lot of this comes down to how writers define success as an author. If your definition of success is that you are traditionally published with a best seller and you are making a living solely from your writing, then you may not feel that you can legitimately call yourself an author until all of those things happen. But if that’s the case, the majority of people whose books you read every year can’t call themselves authors. Clearly, that’s not a reasonable definition of what an author is. Some people think that they can’t call themselves an author until they’ve brought in a certain amount of money in book sales. But do we do this with other professions? Does a medical student who has just graduated but hasn’t started their first job have to refrain from calling himself a doctor until a certain number of paychecks have come in? Does a lawyer doing pro bono work have to stop calling herself a lawyer during that time because she’s doing the work for free? Does a teacher working in a poor neighborhood for low wages have to call himself something other than a teacher because of the amount of money he makes? Of course not! He’s teaching, so he’s a teacher! Similarly, if you’re writing, you’re an author.
The dictionary definition of author is “the writer of a literary work, such as a book.” It says nothing about whether (or how) that book has been published or how commercially successful the book has been or how much money you’ve made. The mere act of writing a book makes you an author. So, you can stop calling yourself an aspiring author and just call yourself an author. What difference does it make? I think it makes a big difference in your attitude. If you’re an aspiring author, you’re someone who is hoping to be an author someday. Someday doesn’t inspire as much action as now does. A person who is going to be an author someday doesn’t have to sit down and write two thousand words tonight. A person who is an author now does. A person who is going to be an author someday doesn’t have to figure out that sticky plot twist in chapter fifteen. A person who is an author now does. An aspiring author can wait to find an agent or take a writing class or start building an audience on Twitter. An actual author can’t. When you call yourself an aspiring author, you let yourself off the hook. You don’t take yourself seriously as a writer. And if you don’t, no one else will, either.
So, the next time I see you on Twitter, I don’t want to see “aspiring author” next to your name. Claim your status as an author! You may be a novice author or a first-time author, but if you’re writing, you’re an author, nonetheless. Say it proudly and then go out there and do whatever it takes to get the success you want.