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?