Coming out of the writer-closet has been terrifying, yet liberating. My biggest fear has not really been that people will think my writing is sophomoric, shallow, and silly. Although I fear that. Instead, I fear that people are, behind my back, thinking, “So where do you get off, calling yourself a writer? You haven’t even published anything yet!”
Not to parse words too much, but technically I have been published — I co-authored a non-fiction tome-o-excitement ten years ago, and I have published a slew of non-fiction articles over the years, some of which you can find on this blog. Then there is this blog thing I do…some little site called Road to Joy…about 1500 words a week for which I click the “publish” button to distribute them to the world via wordpress. That thousands of people visit, for reasons I cannot fathom (thank you for being one of them).
Is it only published writing that makes one a writer? Because, oh yeah, there’s the 40,000 words or so words of business writing I crank out each month for an hourly fee — a large hourly fee, which technically makes me a paid writer. My day job as an attorney/consultant who conducts and reports on employment law issues is far more lucrative than I ever expect my fiction writing to be, which begs the question, I know.
How about teaching? Does that factor in? I taught writing to wannabe lawyers at the University of Texas School of Law. But. . .it was legal writing. And, trust me, legal writing is boring, repetitive, and did I mention it is boring and repetitive?
For goodness’ sake, the volume of my Facebook status updates alone should qualify me as a writer. I can’t help it. Addiction is a disability, y’all, for real.
What I have not published…or sold by the hour…or taught… is FICTION.
My fiction writer street cred is zippo.
When I query an agent, I do so from the depths of the slush pile, and not a letter from the millions of non-fiction words that have poured forth from my fingers count.
So, where DO I get off calling myself a writer?
I call myself a writer because, deep down where hope incubates belief, I am a writer. It is a matter of identity. It’s not that I am a writer of narrative non-fiction, or business publications, or harassment investigation reports, or even women’s fiction novels.
I am simply *a writer*.
When I need to explain myself, I turn to written expression. When I want to share my feelings, I write them down. I courted my husband with my written words, just as he wooed me with his spoken ones. I hate the telephone — I want to put it in writing. Sure, I’ll take a meeting, but expect to hear from me in writing afterward.
My fiction writing, starting with Nanowrimo 2008, was my deep dark secret, the actualization of my dreams, nurtured by the love of a husband who would not let me keep my words hidden any longer. So I am “out”: I am the author of two women’s fiction novels. I have two more women’s fiction novels outlined and ready for that glorious moment when I have time to bring them to life. I have ideas for several non-fiction books on various topics. I have an idea for a young adult novel series. I WRITE POETRY (hideous, hideous poetry) and songs, although, you want those to remain a secret.
Last week, the Writers’ League of Texas deemed my first novel, Leaving Annalise, worthy of a finalist slot in its annual fiction manuscript contest. Damn.
Last month, an agent told me she loved my first novel, writing, and voice and asked for an exclusive on Going for Kona, my second novel (she already had one on Annalise). Double damn.
But do either of these awesome developments, these validations of quality, change my status from non-writer to writer?
Negatory. No one has to bless my writing to deem me a writer.
I breathe. I walk and talk. I eat, I sleep. I write.
What is it that you do?
Well, OK then.
Don’t let anyone tell you any different.