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Writers, Ditch This Word

  • February 13, 2017
  • Blog


I’m on Twitter and I keep seeing author bios that proudly state they’re aspiring writers.

Aspiring. What does that even mean?

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines aspiring as “directing one’s hopes or ambitions toward becoming a specified type of person: an aspiring artist.”

And this is why I have a problem with that word. If you write, you’re a writer. If you mean you’re not a writer until you’re a published writer, well, that’s something else entirely.

Are you serious about spending the time and energy and doing the work? Are you writing? Are you crafting stories? You’re a writer. And until you own that word, why should anyone believe you?

Aspiring sounds hopeful to some. Not to me. If you write and want to be taken seriously as a writer, knock that word off your bio. It takes courage but writing is not for the weak. Writers need to have thick skins and you might as well get in practice from the start.

You are a writer.

It’s something you work at, honing your craft, learning more every day. This doesn’t change whether you’ve written one book or a hundred.

You are a writer.


  • Bernard Ganeles • February 13, 2017 at 2:13 am

    I agree. My father was an artist. When I was boy I once asked him what makes someone an artist. I meant what qualifies someone to call himself (or herself) an artist. He is said an artist is someone who does art. And a writer is someone who writes!

    • J. M. Levinton • February 13, 2017 at 11:03 pm

      Yes, it’s important to take it seriously and that’s why the word “aspiring” seems to weaken the intent.

  • Saul Marchant • February 13, 2017 at 6:46 am

    I struggle with the appropriate use of ‘writer’. I tend towards Russell T. Davies who said you’re not a writer until your work is published. I like this definition because it sets a benchmark for achievement and differentiates the discursive prose of Mrs Willis at number 23 from John Grisham. But what are we to call ourselves before publication? I use the somewhat awkward term ‘proto-writer’ to describe myself – I have potential (I hope) but I’ve not rung the publication gong yet. I agree that ‘aspiring’ is too vague. It makes me think of someone gazing out the window dreaming of being the next Bronte. If someone asks me what I do, I say “I write”. When a book exists with my name on the cover my response will become “I’m a writer”.

    • J. M. Levinton • February 13, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      I don’t know that there’s an appropriate use of the word–probably as many definitions as there are writers. 😉 But “I write” is perfectly fine to me. I dislike the weak “aspiring” for the same reason you describe.

  • Marie MacBryde • February 13, 2017 at 10:35 am

    I kind of agree. You can say you’re a writer, but if the next question is, “What did you publish?” and you haven’t published anything, then I think you have to revert to “an aspiring writer.” (Or simply say you haven’t published anything yet.)

    • J. M. Levinton • February 13, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      Pre-publication, I still called myself a writer, immediately following it up with “I’m working on my novel.” 🙂

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