Every once in a while when I tell someone I am a writer, they tell me they are writers, too.
"I have a whole book in my head," they say. "Now all I have to do is put it on paper."
Honest. This has happened over and over.
I want to scream YOU ARE NOT A WRITER! Because the thing that separates writers from non-writers? Is that writers actually write. (I didn't say they write grammatically.)
You don't have to be good. You don't have to be prolific. You don't have to be published. But for goodness' sake, you have to write.
Having a book in your head and claiming that you are a writer is like having a Ben Serotta bicycle hanging in your garage and saying that you are a cyclist. No, you're not. You're a wannabe. Until you saddle up and ride, you're a poser. Until you put words on paper or pixel...well, shut up.
When I started reading at poetry readings, my friend Ray Clark Dickson taught me to say "I am a writer," and to say it proudly because I did, indeed, put words on paper and share them with other people.
At the time I was working in the graphics department of a large print shop, turning words and clip art into ugly newsletters and business cards. I was not among the more talented "graphic artists" in our department. I was not even among the more talented of the less talented designers in our department (I was, however, very fast. This kept me employed for 14 years).
Because of Ray's constant praise and nagging, I kept saying "I am a writer," though. It took a few years, but now people pay me to do it full-time. In my case, the belief came after the work and before the success. Crazy how it all worked out.