This was originally a Facebook response - and then formed part of a note to a writer friend. It engendered a lot of (civil) discussion, so I thought it might be a useful blog post:
"I'm not a writer. I say I'm one in the spirit of "Elinor agreed to it all because she didn't think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition" and because words are, at times, terribly imprecise.
Like you, I am a prolific reader and I write, but that doesn't make me a writer. I'm not compelled to write. I don't see it as a vocation. I don't like talking about writing, which I feel is highly subjective and mostly nonsense. I don't like the company of other writers just because they're writers, any more than I like the company of brunettes or Californians or professors just because I share those commonalities. If writing is all we have in common, it isn't enough. I like the company of thinkers whether they write or not.
I don't live, like my greatly admired novelist friends, in the company of my characters. I never join writers' groups. I've never taken a writing workshop in my life though I have, possibly hypocritically, given them.*
I do believe, as a person of Letters, it is one of my missions to help my students write better. It is beyond my (or anyone else's) power to turn them into writers if they are not - though it is a responsibility to help them uncover the fact that they are, if they are.
I don't actually like writing and I don't carry a notebook to make notes on anything that happens in the world "for my book".
If people ask me what I do, I often (depending on who asks) say I'm a writer, because I do write. I have professional clients for whom I write, I make shopping lists, I write letters. I've had books, essays, short stories, poems, white papers, dissertations, scripts, and much more published and have won a lot of writing awards. But I don't think that makes one a writer either. It makes one someone who writes. Quite a different thing altogether. If anyone ever asked who I am, he/she would get a different answer (again, depending on who asked -and why).
I am something else altogether. I am a priest (of what, it is difficult to say). I write sermons. I pursue perfectedness. I chronicle that pursuit. That's about it.
Yes, I can write - at times competently, at times well, at (rare) times, inspiredly. But in the last case, I don't feel that I am the one who is writing. I transcribe. I take dictation."
*Neither have any of my highly published writer friends. I do, however, have an MFA in Writing & Literature, which entailed a couple of writing seminars as well as Tutorials. But I had already had two books published when I began that degree.
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance