Saturday, January 22, 2011

Discourse on the Method

In conversation with a friend the other day, I said I really wanted to be a writer.

"You are," my friend says.

"Yeah," I said, "but I don't think of myself like that yet."

"Why not?"

"I don't know."

My friend said, "You write stories that people you don't know have read and you've got a book for sale. You're a writer."

"Maybe I'll feel like that when someone refers to me as a writer."

In my head, I'm a writer. I know it for the reasons my friend outlined above. I'm in my third year of seriously learning my craft and hopefully getting better. I'm comfortable with where I'm at on the learning curve, but in my heart I don't feel like a writer yet.

That's not a bad thing, it's just honest. I have a day job that I love and that I'm very good at and that's primarily how I think of myself, how I define myself as a person in the world.

When someone refers to me as my son's dad, I'm proud. When my (step)daughter introduced me to her serious boyfriend as her father, I beamed. When I'm my wife's husband, I can't tell you how great that feels. These are other people's definitions of me and they give me a sense of place in the world. I'm a father. I'm a husband. I'm a manager. I'm all these things.

Deeper down in my heart I'm an artist. All my life I've drawn or made music or done something to put some kind of art into the world. I've applied my artistic tendencies to how I do my day job and that's been somewhat satisfying, but not enough. I've had to have something creative just to keep myself sane while doing what's right and honorable by keeping a roof over my head and food on the table. I just can't let the day job take over and be enough.

I have another friend who recently referred to me as 'the best writer I know' to some other folks and wow, that's quite a compliment. The opinion matters a great deal to me and I'm grateful my friends think of me that way. Maybe something's wrong with me that I don't think of myself as a writer in the face of all this. Maybe it's that I haven't written anything that feels like it's one of my children or a significant other.

I don't know.

Here in my third year of seriously trying to be a writer, I can use this as inspiration and motivation to keep writing. I've earned some gray hairs from my children and my day job. I have a ring on my left hand that reminds me how precious love is. These are physical things but not necessary. They're only totems.

I suppose I don't feel like I've earned the right to feel like a writer.

To paraphrase Descartes, "I write, therefore I am a writer". Logically that works, but my heart isn't always about logic.  (And before you think this is all about me being self-serving, I'm not begging for anyone to call me a writer. I want to earn it. Really earn it.)

Do you think of yourself as a writer? Do you see a difference between being an author and a writer? What makes you a writer? Let me know in the comments.


Anonymous said...

For lack of anything better to say when asked what I do, I respond, "I'm a writer." I don't always feel as though I'm representing myself honestly. I do not have the writing street cred you do. I have no books for sale, for example. From where I stand, you are indeed a writer. In fact, as a published writer with an item for sale, that makes you a professional and therefore an author. That, of course, is just my take on it.

Take care,

Anonymous said...

I've nothing for sale, but I've been published; I write constantly, online and off, and I have received praise, criticisms and requests for my writing. I write because I want to, need to and have ideas that become stories; because this is what I do and always have done.

Professional is derived from profession, a confession or a source of employment, a degree of accepted, acknowledged competence, or, if you like, a shared delusion. We're all capable of something. Enjoyment is optional. Payment is optional. You are what you are, what you want to be.

I'm a writer because I know I am. Nothing validates me but the act.