When did you first feel like a "real" author? The first time you took pen to paper? The first time you wrote a cohesive story - with a beginning, middle and end? The first time you let someone else read your work? The first time you had your work critiqued and were able to absorb the feedback and make changes? The first time you attended a conference? The first time you queried? The first time you took a work-for-hire assignment? The first time you got paid for your writing? The first time your work was published?
I think each of us has a different threshold. Some writers are never published, and that's fine with them. They write because they have to, no validation needed. Some writers dream of being published from the very first word. Others won't feel validated until s/he holds her book in her hand.
I had a phone conversation with an industry professional this week and received some great feedback on my book. The person treated me like a real writer. It was a wonderful feeling because, of course, I am a real writer. Have been since college. No matter that my first work-for-hire book just came out this past January, twenty years after graduation. Or that my novel is not quite ready to leave pre-query stage.
I am going to the NESCBWI conference this year because I am a writer. Writer's need networking opportunities, and workshops to enhance our skill-sets. I'll say it again, I am a writer. It is my career. It is not just a hobby.
I feel like I should be confident enough to not need the validation. But it feels darn good. What kind of validation do you need to feel like a "real" writer?