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To err is to human, but when to -er?
When a person who writes becomes a writer
I’ve been thinking about what makes someone a writer rather than just a person who writes? Am I a writer? I think so, but it’s hard to feel confident in stating that out loud.
Perhaps it’s when you first get paid for your writing, or upon your first published piece… but with self-publishing and amateur bloggers leading the way with some amazing writing online, is it fair to say some people aren’t writers because they don’t tick a certain box?
In my capacity as a commercial copywriter, I feel confident saying I am a writer as I make a full-time living out of writing content for clients. However, am I a writer in any other sense? I don’t currently make any money from this newsletter, yet I do write it every week and I am seeing a steady increase in subscribers… but even if no one subscribed to this newsletter, could I still consider myself a writer as I do, in fact, write.
To me, being a ‘writer’ has always come with a sense of prestige. Even within the writers’ community, I’ve come across snobbery surrounding certain types of writing. For example, I’ve encountered journos turning their nose up at copywriting, as they see it as a career path taken by those who can’t make it in journalism (it goes without saying that this is incorrect).
Moving up the hierarchy, you find published authors poo-pooing those who choose to self-publish, and the latter claiming superiority over bloggers. I know the writing community isn’t the only one to have this strange, often muddled structure… but it’s one that I consider myself a part of, in several different ways, so I find it profoundly interesting how I am treated (or how others like me are treated) in my capacity as a writer.
I am a copywriter because I enjoy helping brands put their vision into words. I am a pretty standard copywriter who grew up avidly watching Peggy Olsen rise up the ranks in Mad Men. I studied languages at university because I love words and what they can represent, but I also found a passion for design and branding during my GCSE in Graphic Design… so, while I didn’t take the “direct” route, it probably isn’t a surprise to people close to me that I ended up writing for a living.
But in my heart of hearts, I definitely still carry some level of judgement towards myself. If I weren’t a copywriter, but I still wrote this newsletter, could I still call myself a writer? If I never get paid for writing that’s not for a client, or if I’m never published anywhere other than here… am I still a writer?
Here are some thoughts from the Twittersphere in response to the question: “At what point do you go from "a person who enjoys writing" to being "a writer?"
Honestly, like many things, I think it’s a matter of confidence. And there is probably a significant overlap between those of us who lack self-confidence and people who write. So, with that in mind, I am a writer. And you can be too, even if you never earn a penny from your ramblings.
What do you think? Have you ever felt insecure in your capacity to call yourself a “do-er” of a thing? Let me know over on Twitter @ContentByTheSea or reply to this email for a chat!
📽️ Everything Everywhere All At Once (Out in cinemas) - We ventured to the local cinema to see this critically acclaimed hit and we weren’t disappointed. From the get-go, this is a fast-paced masterpiece (I couldn’t even find a suitable time to venture to the loo!) and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves strange and wonderful films.
📽️ The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Netflix) - If you’ve seen The Lobster (we have not) then this might not seem as weird as it did to us. A totally bizarre thriller about revenge and sacrifice.
📽️ Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (Netflix) - I randomly stumbled upon this documentary and it turned out to be one of my favourite watches of the week. It’s about one of the art world’s biggest cases of fraud, whereby a historic and well-established gallery in New York was revealed to buying and selling fraudulent Pollocks, Rothkos, Motherwells and more, over a period of several years.
📚 The Mothers by Brit Bennett - Bennett tells the story of a church community in the south and, in particular, the trials and tribulations of the congregation's teenage members. The storyline itself isn't even hugely gripping but I just like Bennet's writing style, it's full of moments of genius and eternally quotable. If you liked The Vanishing Half then worth dipping into this one too.
🎙️Unreal: A Critical History of Reality TV - I devoured this podcast from Pandora Sykes and Sirin Kale all about the highs and lows of reality TV. The pair revisit some moments in TV history that are permanently burned into my brain, and they also take a critical look at the treatment of reality TV stars, both then and now. A great listen, I highly recommend.
See you next Wednesday with more musings on topics that are important to me, including but not limited to: mental health, work/life balance, internet culture, and much more.
Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:
5th May: Should brands take a stance?
27th April: Social media has always been evil
21st April: Who are we really?
13th April: The ultimate gramma debate
6th April: Has social media killed nuanced debate?
30th March: Finding diamonds in the rough
16th March: The future of this newsletter
9th March: Don’t shoot the messenger
2nd March: How to stay informed without going mad
23rd February: This is how it’s always been
16 February: You can only do your best
26 January: The way to a person’s heart