When Can You Call Yourself an Author?

This is a question that bounced around my head for a while. Before I talk about how I felt and when I decided to use the word author, I asked the writing community of Twitter what their thoughts were;

This question was something that prayed on my mind quite a bit when I started writing especially after released Creatures.

Although having written and (self) published a book, I still didn’t feel like I could call myself a bona fide author. Maybe it was the self-deprecating part of my brain, but I didn’t think I was good enough to be able to use that word.

Something in my brain associated the word “author” with the likes of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, James Patterson, Steven King, Michael Crichton; the authors of books that I grew up reading and I think I was comparing my work to theirs and, honestly, it just didn’t stack up.

In May of 2020, I was struggling with my mental health to the extent that made the difficult decision to quit my day job of working in IT. With this done, I had time to focus on my mental health, and I felt like a big part of my healing was being able to write, and although I was now doing this full-time, I still didn’t feel like I was good enough.

Having these thoughts is difficult to describe, and I’m doing my best to get my thoughts and feelings down here. I suppose a part of my struggle was that I had imposter syndrome. In case you don’t know what this is; it’s a psychological pattern where an individual doubts their skills, accomplishments and talents and you have this fear that one day you’ll be discovered as a fraud. Even though I had written and published a book, I still didn’t have enough confidence in my skills to say that I was good at this and I would be able to write anything else, that Creatures was a one-off. However, then came The Next Stage.

It took me around two years to finish and get The Next Stage published. I think a big reason for this was me delaying it because I still didn’t think it was good enough. It was only when I got to the point where I couldn’t do anything further with it that I eventually released it. When writing it, I knew that this book was superior to Creatures, but there was still that part of me that couldn’t believe I had written it.

Before publishing, the only people to read it were myself and Alex. When she read it, she said it was amazing – so much so that she read it in around four hours because she couldn’t put it down. But there was still that niggly feeling in the back of my brain that it wasn’t all that good and the only way I would truly find out is getting it out so that others could read it.

Once The Next Stage was released, and I saw the reception it was getting – being likened to the Alex Cross books and Blade Runner – it was as if a switch had clicked in my head, one that went from “I’m not good enough to be doing this” to “This is what I should be doing because I’m good at it.” Overnight I was able to call myself an author. Don’t get me wrong, the imposter syndrome still creeps in occasionally – usually when I’m hitting a depressive episode, but for the most part, it’s gone.

As I stated earlier in the post, this is just my journey through this period, and others experience other things and ways they define it. If you feel like you can call yourself a writer/author, then you do it, don’t let anyone stop you from defining your work.

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