Admit it, I’m a Writer

Back when I first did NaNoWriMo for real, in 2012, I had bronchitis and did some preparation for the event in bed before November started. I took time that I haven’t had, before or since, to read the forums and comment. One set of threads that struck me as particularly silly at the time, especially in my codeine-addled state, was the discussion of whether or not to call oneself a writer, especially if (like me), one hadn’t published anything yet. I thought it was silly to spend so much time and mental effort on that question when one could be actually writing something. A few commenters agreed with me; I got the impression that there were others out there that felt the same way, but I probably didn’t see them much because they were too busy writing their own novels. Reassured, I turned to something I found more interesting: designing the cover for my novel (which gave me the idea for how the book would end–so, a worthwhile activity, regardless of whether the actual design ends up being used or not), and taking a nap.

Later I realized later that this phenomenon isn’t unique to writers. I’d run into these questions of self-definition before in other communities where I’d participated, especially but not limited to online forums. Who gets to call themselves a violinist? a scientist? A feminist? Again I approached these discussions with skepticism; they seemed a little clique-y, more focused on keeping out the riffraff than doing anything useful.

But now, fast forward three years, and I’m finding my way in a new place. I’ve been enjoying meeting new people and everyone I’ve met has been friendly and interesting. It invariably comes up: what do you do for work? It’s easy to tell them about my husband’s job at Google. This town is sometimes known as “Google View” (right up the 101 from “Appletino”). And so far, my work story has been this: my part-time employer, Science From Scientists, just opened a new office in the SF Bay Area and I was able to transfer there. So, I am a part-time science educator.

This is all true, as far as it goes, but SfS is a part-time position. Even when the school year starts, I’ll probably only be at a school once a week, if that. In Belmont, in addition to SfS, I also worked at an educational start-up called the Innovation Institute. Here I don’t have that job. And my kids start school tomorrow. Looked at from that vantage point, of working at a school once a week, and my own kids being out of the house for the school day, my week looks rather empty. In reality, though, it’s not. It feels full, crammed to overflowing.

I think it’s time to come clean. What I really want to do with that time I’m not working in education is to finish editing my novel, get it into publishable shape, submit it to publishers, and if that doesn’t work out, self-publish it. That pretty much sounds like something a writer would do, doesn’t it? Hmm . . .

The thing is, even with reduced work commitments, I’m still having trouble finding time to write. I’m not blogging as much as I want to, and my novel is languishing. I look at all the things expected of me as a parent, as a new resident of the area, as a customer, and I feel like throwing up my hands. People don’t respect my time. But how will people know to respect my writing time, unless I tell them? Unless I honor it as much as I do my teaching time and my parenting time? It’s time to start telling people that I’m a writer. Maybe those NaNoWriMo threads weren’t so silly after all.

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8 thoughts on “Admit it, I’m a Writer”

  1. First you should know, my day job is as a lawyer. The only thing that ever worked for me to get myself thinking in terms of “occupation, writer” is to get up at 5a.m. and write my novel until I had to get ready for work an hour later. I finished the novel that way as well as a collection of novellas which is now in print (self-published). And because I have a book in print, and blog that I work really hard at keeping relevant, I now feel okay adding “writer” to my resume. You need to experience a paradigm shift in order to convince yourself of what you’ve been for a while. Finishing the novel worked for me. Good luck finding your path!

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  2. Having to “re-invent” myself in my fifties, I am trying to make a go of it as a writer. The funny part is, I don’t really feel that the freelance work I do for money qualifies me for that title, perhaps because it is so utilitarian and uninspiring (I work for several business publications, wherein I write about the wonderful nature of various companies). What I create in my off-time is much more gratifying from a personal standpoint, and what I show people who want to read my “stuff.”

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    1. In a previous job I wrote scientific grants and progress reports. Some of these I was proud of, some I wasn’t. But I didn’t have as much of a problem showing them to people as I do fiction. I’ve been in a number of writers’ workshops over the years, and the critique process still feels like I imagine getting a root canal must feel like. I know I need to get over this; I hope this is a first step.

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      1. I think having a bigger portfolio of work helps with that, too — I can think of the critique as a very small part of my writing life when it’s only on one of my stories. The right critique group helps a lot too — not everyone is great at feedback. I’ve also made big edits to my stories based on feedback and then realized it wasn’t the right edit for my story. Mileage varies a lot with workshops.

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      2. Oh, absolutely. I’ve had a couple of critiques online recently, and the little group I’ve been in from NaNo has been great. The ones who are the hardest are random people who aren’t writers, including family members. There are some people who just want to give you their opinion, whether you want it ir not.

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  3. I think one of the big stumbling blocks for me in the past was that if I admitted to writing something people would invariably ask to read it, and would give me pushback if the answer was no.

    I don’t like having people read and critique unfinished work. I found this embarrassing enough that I started to hide the fact that I was a writer. Blogging is helping me get over this. Even if I feel like the novel is not ready for prime time at the moment, I can still engage with people in a blog format, and that’s fun!

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  4. Until last year, I hesitated to call myself a writer. Just recently, it dawned on me that every paid job I have had since college has involved writing. When I worked as a speech-language pathologist I wrote daily progress notes and evaluations. When I worked for the state Department of Health I wrote media advisories, training curricula, presentations, grant proposals and more. In my current job I write the quarterly newsletter, fundraising copy and marketing materials. Why have I been scared to say I am a writer?

    And just last month I finally introduced myself to someone else as a writer. Turns out, she was a writer too and we had a wonderful conversation. You are a writer too!

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