this may get me in trouble, but…
Firstly, the Thought Catalog piece describes “writers” as these thinky philosophers whose identity is tied closely with their craft. According to this “writer,” writers are transcendent creatures who can mold and form words and stories and make magic. “Someone who writes” is described more as someone who writes for the public, someone who lacks creativity and is “mass market.” The distinction sounds a lot like every argument I’ve ever had with anyone regarding the relative merits of “literary” vs. genre fiction.
Secondly, the reaction calls bullshit but then concludes, “A writer is someone is someone who gets paid or has gotten paid to write. Otherwise it’s a hobby.”
I was on board with the reaction post until the last line. Because I agree that the Thought Catalog piece is mostly nonsense. It implies that being a writer (instead of someone who writes) is more a state of being than an act. The piece also seems to make a judgment about people who write for the mainstream (like, say, romance writers), so anyone who writes nonfiction or blogs or for the masses is not a writer but instead someone who writes. The piece certainly makes a judgment about that: “writers” are superior to “people who write.”
But I don’t think “writer = paid” is right, either. Sure, I think you could say a professional writer is one who is paid for his work, same as you would say that about a pro athlete. Because you wouldn’t say an Olympic hopeful (most of whom don’t get paid to work out) is not an athlete. Likewise, an individual who puts a concerted effort into her writing—who maybe aspires toward publication, but even someone who just prints out her manuscript to show to her husband—I don’t think you can say that person is not a writer.
(And I do get paid for my writing, before you accuse me of being a bitter hack.)
A writer is someone who writes. We could argue vocation vs. avocation, but I think that’s the only definition that matters. It’s simple, but how many “writers” have you met who talk a good game about craft but never actually commit any words to paper? Saying “I’d like to write a novel someday” is not the same as writing a novel. So you know what? If, like me, you took some time out of today to furiously type at what will hopefully be your sixth published work, you are a writer. If this afternoon you tapped out a thousand words of your epic romance fantasy with damsels and dragons and Highlanders in kilts, even if it’s never going to be seen by any eyes but yours, you are a writer. If you wrote an essay about what a waste of time the MLB All-Star Game is for everyone involved (not that I feel this way necessarily, because how cute was Robbie Cano’s Home-Run Derby situation?), you are a writer. Even if all you wrote today is an angry blog post reacting to some crazy lady sounding off on what she thinks a writer is, well, you are a writer. You wrote something. Ta da!