When do you actually become a writer? Is it when you feel comfortable saying “I’m a writer” when people ask what you do? Is it when you publish your first book?

I’ll probably never get to the point that I’m comfortable enough to call myself a writer absent publishing that first book. Who knows when (or if) that will be.

I was pondering this question today and I think I’ve identified an important waypoint that signals the transformation: that moment when you move on to your second book. This might mean you’ve got your first out to agents or you’ve simply shelved it after trying. The decision to begin a second book is an important step, but not just because it means you’re writing more. It’s an acceptance that your first book is behind you and that your best writing is ahead of you (for beginners at least, it almost certainly is). It’s a commitment to keep doing it, to keep learning and improving.

So, where am I in my metamorphosis? Book Number One has been queried to about 30 agents with 11* rejections, some of them personalized with excellent feedback. Who knows how many of the remaining agents will respond; maybe half of them. My plan is to query at least 100 agents, so I’m still early in the process. I recently completed a small, but major, revision (changed the beginning, always a delicate task) that will hopefully engage readers more quickly.

I came up with the idea for Book Number Two a little over a month ago and I’m incredibly excited about it. But the transition from Number One to Number Two was bittersweet, as i’m sure it is for others who write. At first I felt I was cheating on Number One, even nervous that I’d come to like–even love–Number Two more than One.

This fear never materialized, of course. They are different stories, each worthwhile for their own reasons. Fear of cheating on my own work soon gave way to a sense of maturity. A calmness that comes from perspective.

The acts of writing and creating are themselves enjoyable and worthwhile. I look forward to writing, to building something of substance and meaning, even if it takes years of work. Knowing that I want to do it again on a second book is proof enough to me that this is something I want to do, something I’m committed to doing. Published or no, I think that makes me a writer…though I won’t admit to it at a cocktail party. Not that I get invited to those.

*Make that 12.

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