{DISCUSSION} Publication = Real Writer

Do you need publications to be a ‘real’ writer?

When I started my blog almost three years ago, I debated what I wanted to post. Obviously, at the time, I was looking to build a reader base. I wanted to share my writing with people, but that doesn’t always go as well as we like to think so I also thought about writing about writing. However, I was often deterred from this by people because one singular reason:

You’re not published yet. How can you talk about writing?

At the time, I was furious. Of course, I also thought this statement had some truth in it. How could I talk about writing when I was obviously not a good enough writer to be published? My confidence (like every writer ever) was severely compromised. As such I gave up the idea of writing about writing even though I have LOTS of things to say about writing whether relating to my style or others.

And given that I am still a writer these few years later, I still want to talk about writing. In fact, I’ve gotten a crazy notion in my head that I’d like to become a writing mentor where I can guide, influence, and support wannabe writers or newer writers on their journey to becoming better writers. But again the question returns:

What makes you think you’re qualified to talk about writing/be a writing mentor?

Things have clearly changed because I do have a publication under my belt now. A small one. In an anthology, but a publication nonetheless. And that apparently means that I am now qualified to talk about writing and offer my guidance to newer writers, but… I personally don’t feel like anything has changed with becoming published. Yeah, someone liked my story enough to put it in a book that people pay for. But it’s not like there is some MAGICAL button that was pushed that makes me “official” or makes my writing “glorious” or whatever the qualifications are that allow people to talk about writing and mentor. Frankly, nothing has changed.

I am still rejected just like non-published (and published) writers. I still write garbage like non-published (and published) writers. I just happened to get lucky in writing a story and submitting it to a person who liked it. Literally, the only difference between me and unpublished writers is that I got lucky.


That’s it. I know, crazy, right? But that’s literally all traditional publishing is at the end of the day: Luck. You write something that people want to publish at the time that you submitted to them. In my experience, the fact that you are published actually doesn’t have much of anything to do with how long you’ve been writing, what you write, or how WELL you write. It’s just a matter of timing (and maybe a little networking.)

Reflecting on all of this and the countless writers I have met who are amazing and write really well and who have helped me in my own writing, I really have to analyze why people think you’re not a true writer until you’re published? Why are you not qualified to talk about writing until that ONE person tells you that you’re good enough?

I don’t know why people believe this, but I think it’s garbage! I think it’s back-ass-wards ideals of people (most often times NOT writers) impressing their views of success and qualifications on a SEVERELY subjective line of work that can not be determined by a degree or number of publications or anything like that.

But what do you think?
Do publications equal a ‘real’ writer?
Leave your thoughts below!

And check out my discussion from last week:
Female Villains


9 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Publication = Real Writer”

  1. I think there’s a way in which publication, and the public’s response to your publications, is seen as evidence/proof of your knowledge. It’s not to say that a person who is not published can’t be a skilled and knowledgeable writer, but it’s “evidence” reaffirming that possibility.
    I also think there’s this recurring desire, or habit, where we draw a line in the sand and say “on one side is X, on the other is Y,” whether it’s borders between countries or divisions in time between one day or year and the next. But that’s our need for simple, clear cut answers.
    The reality is that publication doesn’t change who you are, but it does serve as evidence of who you are.
    I’ve heard similar remarks said by actors who “finally got their big break”, but the reality is “that break” is really just an opportunity to be seen and heard on a larger stage, and if people like what they find, more opportunities will come.
    It’s a deceptive thing. It’s the first step, and by itself it can feel quite small, but the second can’t come before the first.

    But yeah, this idea that “you’re not really a writer” is, in my opinion, really just others (and ourselves) trying to make sense of how strange it can be to bear the same “title” as people like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, and countless others who seem to loom so large, to be so much “more” than we are. They are so much more than us, but since we don’t have proper words for the different stages of a writing journey, we tend to add words like “real”.

    I once heard a marvelous story where Neil Gaiman met another famous person named Neil, and how the two discussed both feeling “out of place” and “unimportant”, and how Neil Gaiman told the other gentleman, “But you’ve been in space; you’ve extended our knowledge of the universe. How can that not matter?”

    I think it’s always different when it’s happening to you. You know all the little steps and details that built up to “it”, so “it” doesn’t seem quite as grand or potent as it does to the observer, who doesn’t know the tireless hours spent preparing and working, only the sudden “achievement”, as if it happened overnight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are definitely right, Adam, in saying that we require a world of black and white (which I personally think is garbage. Black and white ideals is what causes most of the problems in humanity, but I digress.) I really think my biggest issue with the yes or no aspect is that it, in this context, means nothing! Plenty of amazing writers haven’t been published. Plenty of crappy writers have been. At the end of the day, being published doesn’t ACTUALLY have any weight as to whether or not you’re ‘good.’ It’s all arbitrary BS.

      As to the whole big authors are bigger, I disagree. Quite frankly, JK Rowling is not that good of a writer. She got lucky. She wrote a series that people enjoyed even though her writing skills were sub-par and I have issues with how many writers idolize her. :/ Also, the very fact that we believe other writers to be MORE than ourselves is the root of the problem. They are no better, no bigger, no nothing. They just got luckier earlier and more often. They are not masters. They still have the potential to write garbage, and to say they are ‘bigger’ is to suggest they are perfect, in my mind. I don’t idolize writers in that way because I think it’s only adding to the problem of ‘you’re not a real writer because x, y, z.’

      Mm. Having it happen to you definitely allows you some perspective, but what it’s done for me is realize how full of shit a lot of people are. First off, people who aren’t writers have no say in this conversation. They don’t know how much it takes to write something, to learn the craft, to harden one’s skin, etc. They can’t shame someone’s hard working just because they haven’t impressed that ONE person, and writers do it to each other a lot too. It’s become the norm to look down on people who aren’t published or who have self-published because we think it means they’re not good enough. I stand by what I said earlier: It has NOTHING to do with ‘good.’

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would get pretty pissed if people told me I wasn’t a “real musician” because I don’t perform with a symphony orchestra. Especially back when I was teaching music. So I totally see where you’re coming from. But, on the other hand, I think a lot of people see “writer” as a profession. Like, a job. And if you’re not published, likely you aren’t earning money on it. So I can kind of see where they’re coming from too. But I think it’s clearly RUDE to tell someone who considers them-self a writer that they aren’t a “real writer”. Even if you think that, who are you to tell someone how to view themselves?? Jerks.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I love this comment so much! Especially the reference to music—I’ve played violin for years and even though I don’t play in a symphony orchestra (I work in a bank all day!), I still consider myself a musician. The same applies to being a writer. I may not be published (yet), but I still consider myself a writer. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I completely understand the concept of real musician. I haven’t played in a long time (so I don’t really consider myself one now), but I was relatively good back in the day. I considered myself a musician because I played music. To force a term into a single definition when it has multiple is just dumb and the same applies to writer and plenty of other activities as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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