There’s been a lot of discussion lately about when you get to call yourself a writer.  It’s an issue I really sympathise with because for a long time I was one of those people.
You see, you decide to take your writing seriously.  You may have been writing for pleasure or you may have even had something published in a newsletter or magazine but there are these… titans whose name you dream of being listed alongside.  Calling yourself a writer somehow seems to disrespect that idea.  No, a ‘writer’ is what you want to become.  What you are now is something that comes before, something embryonic, something that aspires to be that thing.
I get it. I really, really do.  I’d run a successful website, published countless magazine articles and even co-written a non-fiction book and still I did not feel like a ‘writer’.  I’d keep asking myself when did I earn the right to get to call myself a ‘proper writer’?  If this sounds like you, let me give you a little advice.
You’re asking the wrong question!

You see, publishing is a meritocracy and by that I mean Neil Gaiman and George R R Martin got to be giants of the industry purely on the back of what they wrote not who they were or what they called themselves.  There was no induction ceremony, no special handshake and membership badge.  They wrote works of art that people love.
As you move closer to publication you’ll realise that being a writer is a lot less like being in a gentlemen’s club with comfy armchairs and a smoking lounge and more like being back at school.  There are the popular kids, the arrogant kids, the geeky kids,the ones who excel at one subject but are rubbish at another, the ones who seems to excel at everything,  the weirdos and then there’s you who doesn’t feel they really fit in.
There will be those writers who latch onto whoever is seen as new and cool so they can seem new and cool as well. There will be those writers who you think should be more appreciative of their fans.  There will be those writers you support in the “brotherhood (or sisterhood) of writerdom” who will barely acknowledge you. There are those writers who sell bucket loads of books but (in your honest opinion) aren’t great writers.  There will be writers who sell very few but write great books.  There will be those writers who are your mates.  There will be those writers you exchange cat pictures off of the internet with. There will be those writers who you email saying “I’ve got an article due in next week and I need a quote” and email you right back with “sure, what do you need?”
Writers are incredibly diverse but the two things they all share is: firstly, that all of them had a time when they were unpublished and dreamed of being a ‘writer’.  And secondly, have all experienced failure at some time.
So the fact that you are unpublished with a stack of rejections as tall as yourself doesn’t matter, because in many ways you don’t matter in the same way that Neil Gaiman doesn’t matter or George R R Martin doesn’t matter.
It’s all about the work.
Once you really understand that you’ll see that whether you call yourself a ‘writer’ or an ‘aspiring writer’ or an ‘unpublished writer’ doesn’t matter.  And what you have achieved so far (or what you haven’t achieved) doesn’t really matter either because it’s what you are working on now that counts.  Get that done, get it edited and out the door through whatever publishing route suits your career and let the public decide.  Or complete it, trunk it and move onto the next thing.  Because no matter how you qualify success there will always be someone who has sold more books, won more awards, got better reviews, written more books, and is more beloved by fans.
Because the only way you get to be a giant in this industry is through your next book or story.  That’s how you define yourself, not some broad, all-encompassing title such as ‘writer’.