When did you start calling yourself a writer?

I was thinking about this question yesterday, as I emailed off a signed contract to Fantasy Scroll Mag for my short story, “The Peacemaker.” It’s a question that has popped up in a couple of online groups in which I participate, and was brought up in a conversation I had with a fellow aspiring screenwriter at the 2014 GI Film Festival two weeks ago. At first I was taken aback, having just handed him one of my business cards that describes me as “Author, Infamous Scribbler.”

“Well,” I said, and paused. “I started out a journalist about eleven years ago…”

But to be honest, I actually didn’t think of myself as a “writer.” I thought of myself as a “reporter.” Cut from the same cloth, yes, but not quite the same thing.

I first began to consciously call myself both an “author” and a “writer” when my first piece of short fiction was accepted into “Aoife’s Kiss.” The story, “IronFae,” had been the first short story that I had stepped away from and thought: “You know, I think this is good.” I remember having the same reaction to the first song I wrote that was any good (notice I didn’t say it was the first song I wrote, just the first one I thought someone other than myself and the four walls of my room would enjoy.) My judgment was reinforced in that instance by other people’s reactions to the piece, and “Mad King” became part of the CD I recorded with Pop’s Basement.

So perhaps it is more accurate to say that I began thinking of myself as a writer when I first began to trust my judgment about my own writing. I have never been so foolish as to think I could EDIT my own writing, but I think I’m pretty confident in my ability to distinguish between the stories that could go someplace … and those that will just sit and hang out on my computer and never, ever, ever be shown to anyone. Ever.

This question is becoming more important as I begin transitioning out of the Army. With the various life changes that loom before me (and the fact that my primary goal is to apply and go to a PhD program in Fall 2015), I am once again looking at exploring life as a freelance journalist and writer. I’ve started writing for the online site, Task and Purpose, and have reached out—with some success—to local publications. I also have one novel under contract with Untold Press, and am in the final stages of editing and querying another.

I have also—and this is a big one for me—stopped working for free. I have a few obligations that I’ve committed to, but other than those exceptions, the only person I will be writing, editing, copy editing or providing consulting advice to on spec will be myself. The only markets I will be submitting to will be paying ones (even token payments …). It is simply too easy to make a bunch of unpaid commitments, which then leave no time to concentrate on the paying gigs. By this point in my career and experience, I don’t need the “exposure” or “more experience.” I need a job.

It’s a simple question, to which I appear to have answered with a manifesto, but sometimes I need to work these things out in my head, and make a public promise to myself. Looking forward to what the future brings … or rather, I should say, looking forward to what I make of the future!

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