Am I a writer yet?

Ah, a new blog!

It’s good to stretch your legs out under a new project and have a new goal to aim for isn’t it?

Although I’ve been writing on and off all my life (and have the embarrassing dog-eared foolscap pages to prove it), it is only recently that I dared to think that I had any legitimacy. I’ve been published in several text books and niche-interest journals, but never anything that was wholly my own and certainly nothing of which I’m hugely proud.

For most of the last year, I’ve been at home. I took voluntary severance from my last job in order to look after my son who needed a fairly major series of operations on his spine to cure his scoleosis. The wait for a date for the operations stretched on for the first part of the year and with the time on my hands I continued to work on a manuscript which I began writing during lunch breaks and spare time at work last year. In a fit of self-doubt and uncertainty, I suddenly felt that I’d been wasting my time and needed some sort of affirmation that what I was writing was worthwhile.

A search for online resources for freelance writers threw up a link to a small independent publishing house in the U.S. who were looking for submissions. And so, I figuratively dusted off the seventy or so pages of a fantasy manuscript that I’d had on the back-burner. I’d even dated it as 2006 on the cover page, that’s how long I had been sitting on it. Desperate for someone to tell me that what I was doing wasn’t complete rubbish, I sent them the first chapter and a brief summary of what I thought it would be about. Several weeks later they emailed back and asked to see more of what I’d written. After another brief hiatus, they again contacted me to offer a conditional contract for the manuscript, dependent on me finishing it to their satisfaction. At the end of September, I turned in a first draft of nearly 87,000 words and subsequently received a firm offer of a contract for the novel to be published. I’m now waiting to get on with the editing and trying to pin down an idea of the publication date.

Technically I’m between jobs at the moment and looking for something to tide me over, but am still not sure whether I can call myself a writer yet. At what point do you earn the mantle? Does it come with publication, the first royalty cheque or do you need an agent?

It was with some trepidation that I called myself a ‘writer’ recently when asked by someone what I did for a living. I think that I’ve met at least some of the criteria, but I still winced as I said it and felt that I might be found out as a fraud at any moment.