I’ve been hearing a lot of that, lately. “I’ve heard you’re a writer.” Mostly I’ve heard this at work because my boss is a wonderful person and is proud of her workers, so she kind of brags about us to other people. I think this is great for a couple reasons – it shows that she’s a supportive and amazing boss, but it also pushes me entirely out of my comfort zone.
One of the earliest lessons in The Artist’s Way is not to discredit yourself. If you paint, you’re a painter. If you act, you’re an actor/actress. If you write, you’re a writer. That’s all that’s needed. You don’t need to be published. You don’t need to be famous, or even be making money. You simply are.
I point this out because, anytime someone says these words to me I have an initial gut reaction to deny it. “Oh, no, I’m not a writer. Writers have published books.” Do they? Because I think there are a lot of magazine and newspaper article authors out there that likely do not have published books, and would very heavily dispute that fact. Okay, I think. Well, they’re writers, but I am not. I’m still just trying. BZZZZZT. Try again. Having people say these words to me forces me to not deny it out of sheer politeness, if nothing else. The more I don’t deny it, the more I’ll start to believe it myself.
When someone says to me, “I hear you’re a writer”, it’s almost impossible for me not to feel instant fear. Oh God, what if they ask me what I write? They almost always do. “Oh, right now I’m just blogging,” I answer. “Oh? What do you blog about?” Ha! That’s nice and easy. “Just anything that comes to mind,” I tell them. “Life, movie and book reviews. You know, just stuff like that.”
Just stuff like that. As if it’s somehow less significant and therefore much easier to explain. I rarely confess that I want to write a meaningful book for young adults (though I have a few times). Something fictional that manages to be fun but still pack a punch. Something that makes people go ‘wow!’ I just don’t know how yet. I just don’t know what yet. I feel that if I share these secrets, they’ll never come to pass. Well, that, and talking about such things at work strikes me as both potentially awkward and inappropriate. Mostly because the issues I potentially want to write about are sexuality, suicide – the heavy stuff. My life goal is to write a book that makes people feel so shocked/offended/divided that half of them want to burn it.
Why? Maybe because deep down I’ve always been a bit of a contrary person. Or maybe because I think it’s important to keep people offended. Offense and anger, when channeled properly, are propellers of change, and change is necessary for growth.
Having people comment on my being a writer exposes a vulnerability that I don’t like to feel. It forces me to be responsible, too, and accountable. What if later, these people come up to me and ask how my writing is going and I don’t have an answer because I’ve backed off again out of that fear of failure? Well, that would be a lame thing to have to tell them, so now I have to keep going no matter what! And ultimately I know that I am doing this for myself and not for them, but I do think that part of me is glad for that extra drive, that extra accountability. I think by constantly exposing myself to it, I’ll eventually get used to it and then I won’t have anything to be afraid of anymore.
I am a writer. I am successful because each day I get up and write – a word, a sentence, a paragraph. I am successful because when I fail, even if I wait a day, a week, a month, I am writing again despite that temporary failure. I am a writer, even when plots and characters and drive elude me. I am a writer, because that is what I feel in my heart, and that is all I need.