If you tell someone you're a writer these days—or that you aspire to be one—that will almost always provoke a strong reaction.
In my experience, that reaction is usually negative.
I believe that to a lot of people, the title "writer" feels like an attack. Most people are writers—in fact, almost everyone is—therefore saying you want to be a writer is like saying you want to write better than them. To a lot of people, saying "I'm a writer" is saying "I'm pretentious and an egomaniac."
But, what does being a "writer" actually mean?
How is being a "writer" different than being a speaker or a professor or so many other professions that involve writing?
I think the difference is that for someone with the singular goal of writing, the subject is themselves.
What I mean by this is that a teacher, for example, will have a certain area of expertise that they write about. And anyone who writes for their profession will almost always be writing about a specific topic.
But being a writer means not being bound to any one topic. It's about creating something for others that isn't tied to any affiliation and is, in a way, completely separate from the physical world and all of its limitations.
A former English teacher once told me "all writing is a conversation" and that always stuck with me.
He explained that good writers create a conversation with their writing, and effective writing involves a great deal of thought and empathy towards your reader.
So to want to be singularly a writer is essentially wanting to connect with others, to have a conversation with them regardless of who they are or where they come from, or whatever differences would get in the way of having an in-person conversation.
I think today, writing gets a bad rap, it isn't thought of with as much honor as it used to be, probably because of the advent of the internet and the ease with which anyone can publish their writing.
But that doesn't mean it still isn't a noble goal.
Great writers are great because they connect and communicate important issues in a way that reaches far beyond any other medium can.
Writing is as close to soul to soul communication as you can get, besides maybe music. But music isn't able to deal with the intellect. I think that writing and music are like the two halves of the soul, music is the emotional element and writing is the intellectual element.
Of course, other forms of communication are important, but the way in which writing strips everything down to simple words on a page, allows us to transcend our physical world and connect deeply and personally with others regardless of our trivial differences.
To say you want to be a writer is saying you want to connect with others in the most intimate and personal way and mine your own struggles for gold that you can share with them. To learn to write is to learn to develop a eye for truth and an ear for authenticity.
The beauty of being a writer is that everyone is one and anyone can become a great one. In a way, the playing field is equal and everyone is judged by the effort they put in to understand themselves, their lived experience, and their reader's experience. Maybe in an ideal world, everyone would call themselves a writer, who knows.
It's ironic that the term "writer" is thought of so negatively today, when it may be one of the least shallow and least ego-driven goals to strive for. How is it ego-driven to want to be known so as to connect with others?
Unfortunately, I think a lot of writers get sucked into viewing themselves in this negative light and actually start to believe the negative intentions about themselves that other people attribute to them.
Ultimately, if you're an aspiring writer like I am, then I think we're doing alright. Ignore the naysayers, because their negative opinions of you are most likely projections of their own unreconciled prejudices.