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December 30, 2011

Do you have to be paid to be a real writer?

December 30, 2011

Do you have to be paid to be a real writer?

Last week, one of my Twitter favorites Aaron Biebert linked to a post called Am I Writer Or A Blogger? by Jim Raffel, a writer I don’t know. But his questions have rattled around in my head since, especially this one:

“If I’ve never been paid to write, can I really call myself a writer?”

My immediate answer was ‘No’ for two reasons:

(1) How could you be a real writer if you’re not recognized in the form of compensation, and

(2) It’s so easy to publish now, anyone can call themselves a writer, so getting paid is the defining line between writers and dabblers.

But then I backed off a bit after recalling a less staunch definition I had for myself in 2003. Back then, some friends and I had a sports and pop culture website, and I didn’t officially call us writers until we were reviewed and written up by established media entities.

We didn’t make much money on that site. We did it because we loved writing and creating.

This is the point my wife made tonight when I asked her if one must be paid to be a real writer. She reckons there are scores of people who write daily, never publish a thing, and don’t get paid. She thinks those people are the real writers because they do it for the love of it.

She almost convinced me, but I’m staying in the camp that says one has to be published (by an entity other than themselves), reviewed, or paid to be a real writer.

Raffel also adds one more layer by saying that business writing like proposals and presentations counts as getting paid as a writer. I disagree. I’ve done (and been paid for) these things for years, and I think there’s a clear line between this type of business content and writing news, commentary, fiction, etc.

Either way, Raffel raises a very interesting debate. What’s your answer to his question?
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Reference:
Am I A Writer Or A Blogger: by Jim Raffel
Follow Jim Raffel
Follow Aaron Biebert