I started writing as soon as I could pick up a pencil. I wrote poems and short stories and drew pictures.
I started writing seriously when I was 18, and finished my first novel. Over 100,000 words, in fact. From there, I wrote over 20 novel-length stories, querying agents here and there but nothing serious.
But I still never called myself a writer.
I don't work, so I would respond to an inquiry about a job saying, "Oh, I'm a student."
It wasn't because I didn't believe I wasn't a writer. It was because unless you're a writer, you don't understand what it's like to BE a writer.
A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out with a group of friends. One of them commented on what a hard day at work she had - she works as a nurse at a private practice; you know, the one who comes in and takes your vitals - and asked, "Did any of you actually work today?"
Every one of my friends has a job. Except me. I know I'm lucky. I don't have to work. But I did have a long day that day - it took me four hours to revise four chapters of the novel I hope to one day publish. That was when I actually really considered myself a writer. And I told her as much. She brushed off my statement and rolled her eyes before changing the subject.
Besides the fact that I was incredibly offended at the lack of seriousness she was providing my chosen career with especially considering she was supposed to be my best friend, I knew she didn't understand. She couldn't. She'll probably never write a book in her life. She'll never finish one. She'll never understand what it takes to create characters, a logical and compelling story, finish it, and then revise it. Never understand how much blood, sweat, and tears go into a novel. Never understand what it's like to have the patience to go over details to your story, wait for those agent responses. Because she's not a writer.
I know what it's like to be a receptionist. I worked at a movie theatre for 2 years back in high school, dealt with guests, answered phones, sold tickets, ushered, and was a concessionist. I know it's exhausting, even if you're sitting down the entire time. And I don't take any of that away from her. The least she could do is support what I want to do, even if she can't understand it.
And that's another reason why I really don't claim to be a writer. I'm not yet published - I don't even have an agent! - and therefore I'm not getting paid. If I say I'm a writer, people do what my friend did; they humor me but don't take what I'm doing seriously. Apparently, simply writing isn't a job, it's a hobby.
But that's okay. I don't mind saying I'm just a student (even though, after that 4 hours, I considered myself a non-paying worker because seriously - 4 hours!) because I know that one day, I will be able to say I'm a writer.
And then, everyone will take me seriously. For the most part.