Why I Don’t Like the Term “Aspiring Writer”

Photo credit: Wiertz S├Ębastien on Flickr
First and foremost, I’d like to thank Tymothy Longoria and Allie Burke for making me aware of this about a year ago. 

I see the words "aspiring writer" all the time online—in Twitter bios, Facebook profiles, blog pages, just about anything that has a space for people to describe themselves. And on paper, it sounds nice, aspiring writer –it's not overdramatic or overly-ambitious and it even has a nice ring to it.

But every time I see it, I sigh a little, because while I know what people mean when they say they're an aspiring writer, I truly don't believe the "aspiring writer" actually exists.

Hear me out.

Let's take a look at the words "aspiring" and "writer." What do they actually mean?





Take a look at those definitions (from dictionary.com and Google, respectively)—longing, aiming, seeking, directing ones hopes. Some synonyms provided by Google are "yearn" and "strive." Notice a pattern? There’s a lot of dreaming, but none of those words involve taking action.

Now let's look at Google's definition of "writer."



I especially like that first definition—a person who has written a particular text. That's it. Not a person who has published x-number of books or a person who has made x-dollars writing—a person who has written.

Put the two together, and what do we have? Someone who longs or aims to write. The implication of such a combination is clear—the definition of an aspiring writer is someone who wants to write, but doesn't.

Now I know that's not what most people mean when they say they're an aspiring writer. In most cases, they're thinking more of the second definition of writer—someone whose job it is to write. By "aspiring writer," in most cases, they really mean "aspiring published writer," which is another thing entirely.

But an "aspiring writer"? It doesn't exist. Because you can't be a writer if you don't write, and if you write, you're not aspiring to do so at all—you're actually doing it. You've already met your goal. You're already a writer.

If you write, then you're no longer aspiring—you are doing. It doesn't matter if you haven't finished a novel, or if you've never been published, or if you're thirteen or eighty-four—if you write, and you love to write, then you are a writer. Period.

Aspire to be published, or to make a living with your writing, or to sell x-number of copies or make x-number of dollars with your writing. Aspire to be a bestseller, or to have your book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, or to get an agent at your favorite agency.

But don't aspire to write. Just sit down and do it.

What do you think about the term "aspiring writer"? Have you ever defined yourself as one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

37 comments:

Daniel Swensen said...

I don't like it either, and I think I posted something much like this on my own blog a while back. You're either a writer or you're not -- no "aspiring" about it. You can aspire to be published, or famous, or rich, or to get a movie deal, but if you're "aspiring" to be a writer, then stop aspiring and get writing.

Ava Jae said...

I'd love to see your post on the topic. Please feel free to leave me a link. :)


And I absolutely agree. There are many things to aspire to, but being a writer isn't one of them.

Darth Lolita said...

What about "aspiring author"? o.o I always figured "author", at least in this specific context, was a slightly more refined definition than "writer", so it meant author = published writer, writer = someone who writes.


Nevertheless, I like your point. A writer just writers--no need to aspire for it.


(Oh man..."aspire" and "aspiring" has been repeated in my head too many times Dx)

Ava Jae said...

I'm not entirely sure about author--I leave that one up to debate. People usually think "published" when they hear "author" but really, all "author" (according to Google dictionary) is "A writer of a book, article, or report" and "writer" is considered a synonym for "author." Published author is one thing--just author is up for debate, I suppose.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

SolariC said...

May I heartily agree with everything you said in this post? I never refer to myself as an 'aspiring' writer, because I've written 4 novels, 50 poems and a half-dozen short stories. Granted I'm not published at all, and I'm certainly aspiring to be published, but still - I've got the writer part covered. Thank you for this encouraging post!

Chihuahua Zero said...

In my case, the "aspiring writer" part of my blog's title is more of an artifact that I'm seeking to throw away soon. I've been using the phrase "aspiring author" everywhere else.

Problem is, I'm not sure how much it would hurt my blog if I decided to change my blog's domain and name. Do you think I should risk the jump and hope I don't wreck my backlinks?

Ava Jae said...

Thank you! You've definitely got the writer-bit covered and I wish you the best with your work! :)

Ava Jae said...

That's a tricky situation. I'm not 100% sure because I never had to change my blog title or domain name, but if it's possible to change your blog title without changing your domain name, that'd probably be your safest bet. If not, I might leave it alone, because from what I understand, blogger tends to make switching domain names a difficult process, especially when it comes to getting all of your followers to subscribe to your new blog domain. If it turns out you can't change it without difficulty, I wouldn't worry too much about it. You can always change your banner without actually changing your blog title if you wanted to.

Thomas McGee said...

Ha! That’s an excellent point. I knew something always bugged me about the term “aspiring writer,” and you nailed it.


You’re either a writer or you’re not—there’s no middle ground. Great article!

Yesenia Vargas said...

I agree, Ava. Although I used to call myself the very thing. You're either a writer or you're not. You take it seriously or you don't. You dedicate time to writing or just move on.


Honestly, when I think of aspiring writer, I think of someone who wants to be a writer, wants to write, but doesn't consider it important enough to actually follow through.


Maybe I'm a little mean, but I think it's the kick we all need (myself included) from time to time.

Margaret Alexander said...

I've heard mention of this before and I agree to a degree. The aspiring writer label is kind of disheartening, but at the same time, if people don't really feel like writers (maybe they haven't finished a single novel or short story and they seek advice from other writers) then of course they're free to call themselves so. But as someone once said (similar to what you're saying in this post, and it may have even been you, lol) "you are what you say you are." If you say you're a writer, you're a writer, even if you just wish you could produce a finished piece of writing.

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Thomas! I agree--there isn't a middle ground when it comes to being a writer. If you write, you're a writer. The end.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Jason Runnels said...

I've also heard "Pre-published Writer" :-)

Tony Dutson said...

Awesome! This debate is a new one to me, but it makes total sense. Writers write!

Emily said...

I have never been an "aspiring writer." From the moment I could write and read, I have been a writer. People can discover writing at a late age, but I believe that writing itself is innate in everyone. You can't aspire to something you've already achieved.

Ava Jae said...

When you look at the technical definition of "aspiring writer" it's someone who wants to write but doesn't (otherwise you wouldn't be aspiring, you'd be doing it). It's not what most people mean when they say they're an "aspiring writer," but that's the implication of the phrase.

Ava Jae said...

You make a great point about being what you say you are--and you're right that oftentimes people don't feel like writers, but I think that's often a matter of confidence. Especially at first, it can feel strange to say that you're a writer, but if you love writing and you write even (and especially) when you don't have to, then congratulations! You're a writer. :)

Ava Jae said...

Pre-published writer...I like that! Thanks for sharing, Jason!

Ava Jae said...

They most certainly do. Thanks for stopping by, Tony!

Ava Jae said...

"You can't aspire to something you've already achieved."


I love that, Emily, and you're absolutely right. Thanks so much for sharing!

random9q said...

Absolutely. And thanks for the reminder.

Ava Jae said...

You're very welcome! Thanks for stopping by! :)

Jeremy Feijten said...

Hadn't you already written an entry on this subject? Must have read about it on another blog then. Anyway, it seems aspiring writer is not a correct term. I use 'amateur writer'. It looks a little negative maybe, since we think of amateurs as unprofessional wannabes. But after all, amateur means 'lover/fancier', so I guess that's more suitable.

Ava Jae said...

Ok, I just checked. I've mentioned this subject a couple times before, but I never really expanded on the topic until this post.


That's really interesting--I actually didn't know the true definition of "amateur" and I have to say, with that definition in place, it really is quite suitable.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jeremy!

Angel King said...

Love it! So true.

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Angel! :)

Adam C said...

I used to call myself an "aspiring" writer. I did it just for the very reason you said. I meant a professional writer or published author. I think the thing that threw me off was that I started comparing writing to other jobs. "If I say I'm a doctor, am I really a doctor? I'm just fourteen, and I don't have any training at all. Am I a doctor?" Now I notice you can't compare writing to jobs like a doctor. Awesome post, Ava!

Sonia said...

I like your way of thinking. :)

itzkatelynbitch said...

I've used it, and never will again. You're absolutely correct. It sounds nice and fancy but in reality it doesn't make sense. Great piece. .Itzkatelynbitch.wordpress.com I've written similar articles about "epic" and "t-minus".

Rebecca Vance said...

One of the issues that I have is just that..I do consider myself a freelance writer, but an aspiring author..now what exactly is the difference? Must you be published to be an author? So, can that be aspiring? Or can you be an unpublished author as well? Can I call myself a fiction author if I have never been published? Or is that being presumptuous? I know..a lot of questions.. :)

Daphne Shadows said...

The ever prevailing ”aspiring writer” conversation/theory from MY point of view:
Aspiring Writer = you aspire to become a writer.Aspiring Author = you aspire to become a published author.I AM: an aspiring author. I’m already a writer.
This is from my about me blurb - thing. Mwahahaha - got it covered. ;)
Also, I need to fix that quotation mark.

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Sonia! ^_^

Ava Jae said...

The "author" bit is up for debate. Technically if you look at the definition, an author is
(according to Google dictionary) is "A writer of a book, article, or report" and "writer" is considered a synonym for "author." Generally, people tend to think published when they hear the word "author," but that's not always necessarily the case.


I'd say if you're just looking at the definition you could call yourself an author if you wanted to without being published--just not a published author. At least, that's my two cents. :)

Ava Jae said...

I think the author bit is up for debate, but I understand both sides of the coin--it's perfectly fair to say "aspiring author" when you associate "author" with "published," but on the other hand, if you just look at the definition of the word "author," being published isn't part of it, so it's fair to call yourself an author even if you're not published, as well. At least, that's the way I see it.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Daphne!

Ava Jae said...

I've seen that before. Playing devil's advocate though, as soon as you've written a novel, published or not, you're a novelist, aren't you?

George McNeese said...

I've used the term "aspiring writer" during my time in college and even after graduating. I had these big ideas and lofty goals. Somewhere along the way, I found out getting published is hard and that there was no guarantee I would make money. Whenever I told people about my degree, they suggested I do something other than what I wanted to do: write stories.

Recently, I decided to really be serious about writing, even if meant writing short stories. But, this is where I feel like I'm a fraud; because I'm writing short stories and not a novel. But as people on Twitter have reassured me: I'm a writer because I write, bottom line, and it doesn't matter what I write. Thank you for this blog and your vlog on YouTube for your encouraging words.

Ava Jae said...

You're welcome, George! I, of course, agree with Twitter. Good luck with your writing! :)

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