You're Not a Writer (are you?)

Published about 1 year ago • 2 min read

Hi Bookfoxers,

I recently saw this story about a woman who wrote YA fantasy books.

She had a pretty decent career:

  • Published 6 novels
  • Worked with 4 different publishers
  • Made roughly $5,000 a year from book sales

But her husband never introduced her as a writer.

Finally, she pestered him about it. She asked why he never introduced her to people as a writer.

He said: you're not a real writer because you don't do it full time.

In fact, he added that if he introduced her as a writer, he felt that he would be lying.

And then he dropped the ultimate bomb, telling her: it's only a hobby.

Can you believe that?

Six traditionally published books, four-figure sales for years and years, and still, not even her own husband thinks she's a writer.

Folks, there's always going to be someone that will tell you that you're not a writer. There's always going to be someone telling you that it's a cute hobby but your identity is your day job.

Hopefully, it's not your spouse (but if it is, divorce them. I'm kidding. Kind of. Not really. You probably should. Right now.)

No matter how accomplished you become, no matter your accolades, someone will tell you:

  • Oh, you published a book? Haven't heard of it.
  • Oh, you published two books? But what do you do for money.
  • Oh, you're an author of 10 books? How many are NYT bestsellers?

But the worst isn't when someone else tells you that you're not a writer.

No, the worst is when you say that to yourself.

Because writers are plagued by doubts, and even if you've surrounded yourself with encouraging people, it's easy to become your own worst enemy.

Negative self-talk creeps in. You start to believe that you can't write a sentence and that the whole manuscript is rubbish.

You tell yourself that if you were a real writer, it wouldn't be this hard.

And instead of having others disqualify you, you disqualify yourself.

Here's a story:

Philip Roth used to go sit in his agent's office on the first Thursday in October, waiting for the Nobel Prize committee to call. Philip Roth!

  • Author of 27 novels
  • One of the greatest American 20th century writers
  • He'd won virtually every literary prize already

And yet still, he was seeking external validation. He wanted that coronation from the Swedes.

See, so nobody is immune from this imposter syndrome.

Let's get down to brass tacks. Let's define exactly who can call themselves a writer.

You know who a writer is?

A writer is someone who writes.

A writer is someone who writes.

A writer is someone who writes.

It's as simple as that. You don't need anyone's permission to call yourself a writer, you only need the discipline to sit in the chair every day and push the sentences onto the page.


John Matthew Fox

PS. If you need a little more encouragement, click here.


John Matthew Fox helps authors write better fiction. He is the founder of Bookfox, where he creates online courses for writers, provides editing and offers publishing assistance. He is the author of "The Linchpin Writer: Crafting Your Novel's Key Moments" and “I Will Shout Your Name,” a collection of short stories.

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