When I first took a creative writing course I was still in my teens although I was in college. Since I started school at the tender age of four and graduated from high school at just 17, that was possible. One of the first things that our instructor told us was that we should immediately begin telling everyone that "I am a writer."
When asked what we did, that was supposed to be our answer. The idea was to bolster our confidence and to present an image as a writer or so it was presented.
The flaw that I saw in it then and now is that the obvious question to that statement is "What have you written?"
Although I wrote at that age and had a very few modest publications, I didn't think I was qualified to state that I was a writer. After all, my main occupation at the time was student. I also worked in the campus cafeteria.
Now that years have gone by at the speed of light and I am a writer, I reflect on that. Just how, when, and where did I decide that I could call myself a writer - and now an author - with authority.
I think I first felt I could say I was a writer when I began to accumlate writing credits. When asked by the friendly hairdresser at the salon what I did, I could say that I was a writer and when she asked where, I could rattle off a list of publication credits.
Until I signed my name across that first book contract, I didn't tell people that I was an author either. Now I can.
Last week when I purchased my new laptop, I talked with the clerk about what I planned to use the computer to do and when I said I was a writer, he thought that was cool. Since my daughters had put up every computer screen in the place with a link to Wolfe's Lady he noticed that they all featured the same book cover so I said, "Oh, that's my book."
He nodded and smiled. Then it sank into his brain and he did a double take.
"That's YOUR book?" he asked with growing excitement.
"Well, yeah, it is." I said.
"COOL!" he said.
I earned the right to say that I am writer when I had a publication record to demonstrate that it was true. I can now say that I am an author because I have one novel out, another out two weeks from today, and three more due out this year, two confirmed for next year.
Like any occupation, when you reach a certain level, you are.
And I am.