Lately, you may have noticed a few things spruced up around my blog: some new tabs that make finding information about me and my books a little smoother. The sidebar’s cleaned up a bit. And the tags on the side are more descriptive of my author brand, with phrases like middle grade, science fiction, and writing journey. For a while, I’ve owned the title of writer, accepting it as a part of who I am, as much as the titles engineer or mom. These are all things that, once you become them, you do not unbecome them. The blog changes are just small tweaks to make that more clear.
It was not ever thus.
Many writers struggle with owning the title of WRITER.
We caveat it – aspiring writer or pre-published writer – and reserve author for those who have completed a novel/published a novel/reached some milestone.
Before we have some tangible “proof” with writing “credits,” we’re embarrassed to admit to our friends and family that we’re not just hobbyists, that we are serious about this writing business. Sometimes we’re afraid we will be ridiculed or get the faint praise that people lay on dreams they think are doomed.
I was one of those writers.
I wrote for a while without telling anyone (other than my husband), like it was some kind of dirty secret I had to keep hidden under a rock. As if creating stories that stirred emotions (even if they were only mine) was something to be ashamed of.
Sad. I know.
The truth was that I was afraid someone would think it silly for a Ph.D. scientist to write love stories. Or that I was simply plain bad at it, creating only cringe-worthy prose (which was certainly true in the beginning, but that only meant that I was at the beginning. Just ask anyone further down on the path).
My brother, the real writer in the family, quickly beat that notion out of me. He insisted that I needed to write, because creating something original had intrinsic value in the world. And he knew the soul-crushing fear that came along with sharing that act of creation with the world. He was my first true writer-friend that understood. Still, I resisted. Again and again.
The day I owned the title of writer was a surprise to me (the Staples guy, upon seeing my printed out manuscript asked, “Oh, are you a writer?” My answer, “Yes! Yes I am,” shocked me.) It had seeped in without my knowledge, a stealthy thing to get around my anxieties and pre-conceptions.
Which is why I was nothing less than stunned that none of this crazy was passed on to Dark Omen, my 12 yo son who self-published his first novel this summer and is well on his way to the sequel.
We were gathered for a family dinner, celebrating Grandma’s birthday. Dark Omen’s aunt had started reading his book and asked him that innocent question that young writers often get.
“Are you going to be a writer when you grow up?” she asked.
“I’m already a writer.” Dark Omen paused a beat. “But, yes, I plan to continue writing books.”
I high-fived him right there at the dinner table! Because he owned it in a way that I couldn’t have imagined doing after finishing my first novel.
I learn things all the time from my kids. After dinner, Dark Omen and I talked. He was baffled as to why anyone would be embarrassed to say they were a writer. You see, he had taken the words I preached at my Writing While Teen workshop and believed them. Then he echoed them back to me: If you write, you are a writer.
Writer-friends, when did you own the title?
p.s. Don’t forget to leave a comment here to be entered to win a copy of Kris Yankee’s Saving Redwind!
UPDATE: Be sure to watch this video by Ira Glass about beginners (in creative work) and how you just have to fight through it to the good stuff.