For calling yourself a something.
I remember when I was sweating it out in the pro music world how much I agonized over whether I was a *real* musician, or whether I could call myself a musician when I made part of my income from teaching. Or if it counted when I was making most of my money over the summers playing artistically dissatisfying weddings. I’ve heard many artists complain of similar worries. I’ve heard that you get to call yourself a professional so and so after you’ve made money doing the so and so, but that’s too vague, there are definitely great musicians who’ve never made a dime and I’ve met a great number of musicians who make money despite not being very good (I’m pretty sure I was a member of the latter group.)
The point is I think there ought to be a criteria for when you earn the title associated with your field or hobby and I think the following should be among the barriers for entry:
1. You have spent a significant amount of time over a significant period of time doing the thing.
If you’ve been practicing your instrument almost every day for a year, you are a musician. If you put paint brush to canvas regularly over a year, you’re a painter. The time period should be long enough to weed out the tourists but not so long as to discourage anyone. I think a big problem is that we reserve the title of musician or dancer for experts. Let the truly obsessed call themselves expert musicians or dancers, those of us who just like doing something still get the regular version.
2. You have publicly exhibited your work
This one could be that you played a song for a friend, you bring your baking to a party, or you post your poems on your blog. Sharing just with your teacher, if you have one, does not count.
3. You have gained the ability to visualize the thing you intend to produce.
I think this is the most important one of all. If you can picture your hands moving on your instrument and what that will probably sound like, if you can see the photo you want in your head and set your camera’s settings accordingly, if you see the painting you’re going to create before you pick up your brush, you’re definitely a musician, photographer or painter because this thing you’re doing is actually inside your brain now; it’s a part of you.