Calling Yourself a Writer

I took my first tentative steps on shaky legs one year ago. That’s when I quit my less-than-fulfilling full-time job (no, I did not retire) and started cobbling together part-time writing gigs. My job title on social media had to change. So, what should I call myself?

Adjunct college instructor? I taught one class (my first one ever), loved it, and learned more than my students. But since my pay was comparable to a kid’s delivering newspapers, I decided to part company with that position.

Should I label myself as Writing tutor? Editor? Speaker? These titles only show glimpses of what I do.

Nothing else fit, so I took the plunge. I decided it was time to identify as Writer.

Why is that so hard to do? A decade ago, I published a memoir and since then, I’ve had many short stories, essays, and articles in print. I’ve written two novels in a series of three. When I received my Master of Art in Writing degree, shouldn’t that qualify me to bear the title?

I write. I should be called a writer. Right?

Writers carry enough angst as it is. We tend to be an introspective lot. Calling yourself a writer connotes that you think you’re a good writer—which is subjective and seems to depend solely on the number of likes and comments (engagements) you can drum up on social media.

If it’s your occupation, does that mean you actually get paid to do it? When I think of the hours it takes to write and revise and revise a novel, the months and years it takes to find an agent and go through the publishing process, I doubt I’ll live long enough to see the non-red ink side of the ledger.

Writing is a passion. It comes from a deep place in our soul. Writers write because we must. For me, it’s a calling. I believe God put the desire to write in me. The ideas that come to my when I dream or when I walk, could that be his voice whispering to me?

Writing is hard work. I spend hours upstairs in my little garret office, transforming letters into words and pouring them out as sentences on my laptop every day (well, almost). My garret is the cheapskate’s version of being holed up in a mountain cabin. Even though it’s actually a corner of my guest room, I get so caught up in what I do that I forget where I am and I lose track of time. What? Didn’t you eat dinner last night? Even my sleep is disrupted by characters I invented. That’s not how I would say it.

A writer has to set up structure where there is none. Drudge up momentum on your own, without a team spurring you on. Be productive when there’s nothing to show for it. Get things done when you have no time to do them.

My first year nearly down, I doubted my Writer status. I wondered if I should have kept my (was it really so boring?) administrative job. The teaching gig took all my time and energy in the fall. Being the medical shuttle driver and caregiver for three people drained me in the spring. Spanning all four seasons, I served on the Grand Jury, which provided a wealth of fodder for future stories, if only the judge hadn’t said something about having to kill me if I repeated any of it.

And then came July, and Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The sick people in my life were finally healthy enough for me to proclaim July as My Month: Don’t Bother Me Unless You’re Dying. The accountability of the camp kicked me in the butt and kick-started my stalled momentum on the second novel.

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I wrapped up my first year calling myself a Writer on a positive note. I finished my second novel and an agent is considering the first one. That’s not too shabby.

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