Write on Wednesday – By Any Other Name

I’m never quite sure what to say when people ask me what I “do.” What they really mean, of course, is what do I do for a living, what I get paid for doing. Depending on who’s asking, I’ll answer that I’m an administrative assistant (or an administrative professional, as I’ve been hearing lately). Sometimes, I’ll say that I’m an admin assistant and also a musician. I have never said “I am a writer.”

Why is that? In the past year, I’ve probably spent just as much time writing as I have working in my office job, or playing piano for my school groups. I’ve written dozens of haiku and poems, I’ve completed three short stories and one novel, not to mention close to 250 blog posts on various subjects. I’ve filled 8 spiral notebooks with handwritten morning page meditations, yet none of my family or friends (except those of you who are reading this) have any idea that I’ve been doing all this scribbling in my “spare time.”

I’m just starting to get my head around the idea that I might be a writer – see, I still can’t quite say it for certain! But Brenda Ueland says it, Julia Cameron says it, Natalie Goldberg says it~if you wrote something today, you are a writer. Unfortunately, I’ve been well conditioned by this product driven world we live in – a world that tells us that unless you’ve created something that’s in demand, something that people are willing to pay for, then you haven’t really produced anything worthwhile. It doesn’t matter that I spend lots of my free hours sitting in front of this screen, searching for just the right words to convey my ideas about something, or that I study the craft of writing by reading other writers on the subject, or that I feel a sublime sense of well being when I manage to get a sentence or a simile just right. The satisfaction I get from writing~ from using language to convey thoughts, ideas, emotions~is extremely valuable to me. Isn’t that reward enough to convince me that I am a writer?

In the past, it’s been easier for me to define myself as a musician, because people listen to my music. The reward of playing for an audience is immediate and intoxicating. You see their reaction in the smiles on their faces, you feel their involvement in the energy that pervades the room, you hear their enjoyement in the excited applause. I admit that I love that instant reaction, that feeling of providing the audience with something that entertains and enlightens them. The writer’s “product”~the essay, the story, the poem~is “consumed” somewhere else. The feedback is rarely immediate, and sometimes doesn’t come at all.

Except, of course, in this world of blogging. What a gift to those of us who need to feel as if their words are being read, being consumed by someone, somewhere, who might find them meaningful. The internet has provided writers like us with a place to share our stories, our perspective, our experiences, and ~even more exciting~ to engage in a dialogue with other writers. At least in this space, I find myself much more comfortable saying that I am a writer.

Perhaps, some day, I’ll be able to say it to the rest of the world as well.

So, how about you? Do you call yourself a writer? Shouldn’t you?

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20 thoughts on “Write on Wednesday – By Any Other Name

  1. The amount of writing you’ve done in the past year must surely make you a writer. And the quality of your writing is proof of your practice. We need to get past the concept that everything must have a price before it has value.

    I’ve struggled with this for years too. Even after my writing group published a chapbook I couldn’t call myself a writer; my teacher practically forced me to get business cards that said “Writer” beneath my name. It felt like a lie and I eventually threw them out.

  2. I have so enjoyed the things you’ve written and know how much time you devote to your writing life, but I can understand the reluctance that has been built into your thinking over the years. As Dierdre said, even though we can see the evidence that supports it, we find it difficult to fully take it in.

    Most things in life are easier after the first time or so; I think after you refer to yourself as a writer a time or two (or, realistically, a half dozen?) you will find the knowing that is in your heart migrating into your brain as well.

    In my book, you are a writer (and a really good one at that)!

  3. Becca, I feel like saying “You’re a Writer”. Full stop. But what I think doesn’t matter. Maybe you do need to set yourself a practice of affirmations. And maybe floating the question here, and saying (in bold type) “I am a writer” is a first step towards taking it into yourself? I think Deirdre got it when she said we have to get past the idea of price=value. By that measure, Van Gogh wasn’t an artist, he sold so little in his life. Stick with it. Penwielder!

  4. You are a writer, Becca, for sure. You do not need to be making an income from writing to be a writer. Unfortunately the first thing that people ask when you admit being a writer is, “What have you published??” A daunting question indeed, one that is bothersome for most struggling writers who feel ashamed of not having published anything. Let’s get rid of the thoughts that we are not good enough!! Onward with pen in hand we go!!

  5. Amen Becca! I was going to not finish my novel because unless I put it on my blog who would care? Who would read it? I’m a writer because that’s what I do. 🙂 xxoo

  6. Deirdre~You’re so right about the intrinsic value of our writing. And you’ve been a writer for quite a while now, with your writing group and then your blog~probably most of your life, in fact. You don’t need business cards to tell you that!

    Star~I like the idea of the calling myself a writer until it “migrates from my heart into my brain” 🙂

    Greenishlady~Penwielder’s all! I love that expression.

    Joan~We do have to get past the whole publishing thing, and I’m working on that. Yes, onward we go!

    Tammy~I certainly care if you finish your novel! I’d love to read it-but even if I didn’t care, you’re absolutely right that you much finish it just for you!

  7. I don’t think that I have ever called myself a writer. I say that I write but I don’t say, I am a writer. I think we should all resolve to because I do believe that if we do it then we are it!
    Such a great post Becca…and if you want my opinion, from the second I stumbled on your blog you became one of my favorite writers!

  8. Becca, amazingly, I just posted a comment elsewhere that exactly shares the sort of answer I would write here. Like YOU, I find that writing is my strongest creative outlet. Here is the comment I just posted that I will also share here:

    ***Blogging focused what I was truly interested in. BB (before blogging) I was all over the creative map and as a consequence didn’t do anything well or in depth. BB was actually a very accurate expression of my daily life. Now that I’ve been blogging for a year, I find that two things stand out. I love photography and I LOVE TO WRITE. I have written more poetry in one year than I’ve written in the last 40 years. I have always used poetry as a form of creative expression but it wasn’t until this past year that I used it to any effect. And why now? Well, BB, I was child rearing pretty much on my own, working full-time, and focusing entirely on family needs. I also believed that I wasn’t as creative spirit. But then I discovered The Artist’s Way and found myself for the first time focusing continuously and completely for a 12 week period of time and I actually completed the book. Since then, I’ve had to deal with elder parent health issues but now I find myself within two years of retirement and blogging has turned into writing. I’ve met so many creative people who think well of ME. I find that I am part of many mutual admiration societies and the positive feedback of others has helped me nurture a more positive feeling about myself. I’m very grateful to the many women and a few men who have shown me the way. I would not have known any of them without blogging.***

    So now, if anyone asks me what I do, I will be sure to ask them if they are asking about my JOB or are they asking about ME. They would get two very different answers.

  9. Oh this is a fabulous post and speaks so much truth.
    For some reason I’d rather call myself a “cashier” in a grocery store than a writer.
    I did however become a bit more at ease with telling certain people “I’m a writer” once I got published.
    It felt like a rite of passage for me…in some defining way.
    YOU my friend are most definitely A WRITER…and a great one, I might add!

  10. Tara~Merci beaucoup, my fellow writer!

    Tori~You are most definitely a writer, and very fine one~wear the title with pride.

    Annie~So true, the way the blogging experience has clarified this interest and turned it into a passion. And yes, the “job” is very different from the “me”~excellent point!

    Shaz~thank you,my friend~namaste 🙂

    Bohemian Mom~being published would definitely provide positive affirmation~good for you!

  11. I imagine so many of us can relate to this. My job title is managing editor, but when I get asked what I do, I always say I’m a writer. My husband always wonders why, since managing editor is a fancier title. But I really feel like I am a writer in my “real life” but no one asks about that, so I make it into the answer to the quetsion I do get asked alot–what are you paid to do?

    But it is an interesting question in a broader sense. I think there are some words that are just loaded, and writer is one of them. After all, you might say that you’re a knitter even if no one paid for your mittens, but calling oneself a writer seems scarier for some reason. In any case, I think you have every right to embrace the term. The writing you do on here is wonderful, and studying other writers is a true sign of devotion to the craft!

    (Sorry for the rambling comment… it’s late!

  12. Bug~You have certainly earned the title of writer, and have the “chops” to back it up in the real world. For me, it is a definition that’s loaded with expectation, which I have to fulfill in my own mind first, I guess, before declaring myself to the world. Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. I have not been around here for awhile, but am I ever happy I came in time for this! What a great post! Thank you, thank you. I needed to read this!

    I feel the same. Even though I have had a few little things published “for real”, I will tell myself they are not very important. They don’t make me a “real” writer, because I don’t make my living this way. But I am! You are right! Just because I write.

    And you are right that these blogs make me feel like a writer. Bless the bloggy tribes. 😉

    🙂

  14. Actions speak louder than words, don’t they? If you write, then you are, indeed, a writer. Your post is a good reminder of this truth.

  15. I said the words out loud and in writing last year to myself and others and have never looked back. I knew it inside and once I said them out loud a few times and continued blogging and writing poems and stories, I could say it with confidence. I’ve never tried to sell anything yet. What amazed me most is that even my immediate family now says, my mom (or Marcia) is a writer. I nearly fell over the first few times.

    You are very much a writer, Becca.

    It is time you (all of us) to stand up and claim our status as writers, honestly, no one can take us seriously if we don’t. I just learned that through my family.

    (and Greenish lady, had a great point, aren’t artists artists???)

  16. Funny, it’s easier for me to say that I’m a writer than it is for me to say, “I’m a blogger.” Maybe because more people know what a writer is/does. I get a lot of “what’s a blog?” still.

    I’ve tried to be other things but lost interest in them all, no matter how good I was at them. Or else they took too much time away from my writing.

    So yeah, I’m a writer.

    Here from JM’s carnival; nice to meet you!

  17. Stopping by from the bog carnival. I can totally relate to this post.

    I know I am a writer but it feels like I have to be paid for writing before I can say “I am a writer,” to other people.

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