I decided I was a writer.
That's all. I had been writing only a little poetry at that point, and a few smutty stories that I'd sent out over the net. I knew some random people liked what I wrote. Up until that point, I hadn't known what to do with my life. I was an English major. I didn't want to be an English major until the day I died.
So I decided I was a writer.
Now, that didn't mean I was a good writer. I knew that I was probably a pretty bad writer at that point, and might get worse before I got better. I knew that I might never be published, sell a story, make a living writing, win a prize, change someone's life. And I wanted to do all those things. I craved (and still crave) that outside recognition.
But I could still be a writer.
I did know that I needed to improve at some point, and that even if the outside world didn't appreciate my work, I needed to know that I was getting better, that I was accomplishing something. There was always the chance that I'd be discovered post-humously. If I weren't improving, then I was failing. If I ever decided that I was a failed writer, then I'd probably stop calling myself a writer.
In the meantime, I was a writer.
But writing takes time. And improving takes work. It takes study and workshops and reading and practicing. It's something that I truly think cannot happen if you're relying on yearly flashes of inspiration. That's the main thing that some of my friends who want to be called writers aren't doing -- they're not working at being writers. And maybe that's because they think someone else has to hand them the job title before they're supposed to start doing the work. I'm not sure.
It doesn't work that way. Oh, I know Natalie Goldberg talks all about someone 'giving you permission' to be a writer, and I actually like that essay; she says some good things. But when it comes down to it, you need to give yourself that permission, really. You need to take on the job title and start doing the work.
I am a working writer.
You need to acknowledge that it is your primary job, and any other jobs you have come second to it -- that they will be in service to the writing, and that if they interfere, you will reconcile that or give them up. Writing will require sacrifices of you -- sometimes dramatic ones, sometimes really boring but necessary ones. If you want to be a writer, you need to acknowledge that it will sometimes require very difficult things of you. Those things are part of the job description. You can bitch and moan and complain about them, but you can't avoid them and still call yourself a writer.
All of the above applies only to being a writer with a capital W, of course. If you're writing as a hobby, as an amateur, then feel free to ignore it all, and good for you. Have fun! But if you really want to be a Writer -- well, here. I give you permission.
You are a writer!
Now get off your butt and go do some work.