Doctors. Lawyers. Accountants. Janitors. These are all pretty recognisable as career/ job choices aren’t they? When someone asks one of these people, what gives you the right to call yourself whatever-you-are, most people can point to a degree or their employment description or a certificate. So then that someone turns to you, the lowly university student, and they go, “So what do you want to do?”
Silence. A cricket chirps in the distance. A lizard shoots through the grass.
“Uhm, I’m a writer.”
Wait! Stop. Right. There! Why the hesitation? Why the reluctance? Writing gives me so much joy but if people question me about it I’m likely to clam up. I’m not blind. I can see their eyebrows creeping up their foreheads and the sneers tugging at the corners of their mouths. In their minds, all they’re asking is, “What gives you the right to call yourself a writer?”
Yes. This is something I struggle with. The need to justify my writing existence. I can honestly say that in the last few years I’ve gotten way better. I don’t care as much about what people think as I do about proving my abilities to myself. I’ll even go to great and ridiculous lengths to achieve those all important writing milestones.
Finish a manuscript? Check! I was thirteen when I started a very ‘interesting’ vampire story. It had plenty energy and enthusiasm thrown into it as well as tons of over-active (and not in the good way) imagination. I got to chapter 17 before I ran out of steam. Then at sixteen, while going through a rather depressing phase I felt the need to finish said vampire story so that finally I could finish one book. So I wrote. And wrote. And I kept writing until I finally typed those last few words, saved the document, then prayed to God that I’d never have to open it again. The story sucked guys. It sucked tons. But it was finished. I was a writer! Yay!
Query a manuscript? Check! You know that line you hear all the time: “All writers get rejected, at least at first.” Uhm. Yeah. My only finished story was the Worst Vampire Story EVER, and no way would I ever let that see the light of day, much less query it. In a fit of madness I did. Don’t ever do this! Don’t!!! The story was salvageable, as long as I removed everything to do with vampires but I really didn’t have the patience to start digging through the crap. I queried. I was rejected. FINALLY! I was a writer! Yay!
- Publish a novel? Uhm… So, I haven’t yet reached this stage, but that’s kind of okay. I still have plenty of space for my writing ability to grow before I can manage something publishable and I’m okay with that. Finally. I guess it just takes a while to grow into acceptance of who you are without having to prove it to yourself and to the outside world. Over and over again.
So, what’s the point? Well, I think I’ve earned the right to call myself a writer because no matter what, I will always love to write and I will always keep writing. It took me a while to figure it out, but enthusiasm and appreciation for the craft are probably some of the most important factors as well as the drive to keep writing.
What do you guys think?
K, the Popinjay.