Journalist or Writer

Twice in the last week, I’ve been referred to as a “journalist”. Both times, I corrected them.

“No, no. I just write for magazines.”

“Er… isn’t that a journalist?”

“No, I’m a writer.”


I’ve been considering my response. I felt quite uncomfortable in being called a journalist. It’s not because of some knee-jerk reaction to being lumped in with those dodgy criminals on certain newspapers, and not because I feel tarnished in association with paparazzi.

I think it’s because “journalist” sounds professional, and I feel like a lucky amateur.

How stupid is that? If there’s one thing I’ve been banging on about on this blog, it’s this: be professional. Act professional. Project a professional demeanour. Demand respect, and you will get it. So where does my sudden reticence come from?

Success, perhaps. Imposter syndrome. “Lucky amateur?” For a start, luck only seems to turn up when I’ve worked really, really hard. Lucky opportunities appear when I go searching for them. Luck’s the sudden flash of inspiration that I recognise, and grab, after many months of study and trial.

And “amateur”? Writing, and associated occupations, are my income now. I’ve got an accountant. I cannot claim to be an amateur.

I left my regular job in January. Things are still going well for me. In fact, they get better and better.

I’m waiting for the fall. I’m waiting for the backlash. There must still be a part of me, under the confidence and the bragging, that can’t quite believe I’m doing this. After all, the sensible person knows that writing is a dream and that in real life, you have to go and work in an office from 8am to 6pm. My inner Puritan tells me that work is not fun, nor is it supposed to be.

There’s also the fact that I’m not a trained journalist. My experience in the heady world of newspaper men was a bare three months on a Welsh periodical. My article on the opening of a new pharmacy in Tal-y-Bont will not be remembered as the pinnacle of journalistic excellence.

There are some things I know, and a lot of things I’ve made an effort to find out. An editor referred to me in an email as a “pro” which was a lovely thing to say, and made me leap around the house shouting it at my husband. Not, I feel, the actions of a real pro perhaps?

Journalist. “I’m a journalist.” No, it feels odd to type it! For the moment, I’m happy being… a writer.

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  1. #1 by Sally Jenkins on March 1, 2013 - 1:07 pm

    I think your insecurity might be a female thing, Autumn. We women feel we have to prove ourselves all the time – a man would just get on with enjoying his success!
    I’m sure you’ll carry on doing super well!

    • #2 by autumnbarlow on March 1, 2013 - 1:13 pm

      Thank you Sally! I thought that too, but the reference in the Wikipedia article refers to a study which claims that equal numbers of men and women suffer “imposter syndrome”. I’m not going so far as to claim I actually have this, but there are elements I think we can all recognise.

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