What's Important 6: "Writer"

Note: A few years ago I wrote a series of pieces on "What's Important." They got a decent amount of traffic on my old blog, so I've decided to re-run them on my new site.

It's 9:03 on a Tuesday night and I'm sitting in front of my computer, much like I do most of the nights of the week.  My wife is in the living room watching television and it was all I could do to force myself away from her and into my office.  My desk is covered with papers, vaguely organized by story.  There are pens of every color all over the place.

This is about as true a picture of my existence as you're going to get, but chances are good I would never tell you that I'm a writer.

Every once in a while, I'm social.  It's almost always with Nicole next to me, and usually it's with her family.  But there have been occasions where I've been social with strangers, although still with Nicole by my side.

Inevitably, the strangers will ask me what I do.  And, inevitably, I will pause before I answer.  If she's quick enough, Nicole will interject, and tell the stranger that I'm a writer.  They will ask me what I write and I will become even more socially awkward than normal.

This is what Dictionary.com has to tell me about writers:

writ·er

[

rahy

-ter

]

Show IPA

noun

1.

a

person

engaged

in

writing

books,

articles,

stories,

etc.,

especially

as

an

occupation

or

profession;

an

author

or

journalist.

2.

a

clerk,

scribe,

or

the

like.

3.

a

person

who

commits

his

or

her

thoughts,

ideas,

etc.,

to

writing

:

an

expert

letter

writer.

4.

(in

a

piece

of

writing)

the

author

(used

as

a

circumlocution

for

“I,”

“me,”

“my,”

etc.):

The

writer

wishes

to

state….

5.

a

person

who

writes

or

is

able

to

write

:

a

writer

in

script.

So I guess technically I'm a writer.

But I have a hard time making that claim.

I've written three books.  One of them has been published.  I've just started the process of getting the last one published.  The other one has been sitting in a drawer for a while.

I've had a few short stories published by fairly obscure literary journals.  I'm a finalist for the next issue of Best New Writing.  I've got an essay in Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion, published by Titan Books.  I've even got some various pop culture reviews floating around the internet.

I still have a hard time calling myself a writer.

My problem, as always, is that I consider the title "writer" as something you have to earn, and you earn it by being a good enough writer that you can make a living at doing that and nothing else.

There's a certain level of snobbery in that.  The way that I look at it, anyone can

call

themselves a writer.  Any person who puts a few words on a few pages can say that they're a writer, and that diminishes it for me.  It belittles something that I think is incredibly powerful.

Writing is not something I take lightly and it bothers me that those who do take it lightly can call themselves writers.

The reality, however, is that the aforementioned people are few and far between, certainly fewer than those of us who take writing seriously.

This is my first problem.  I believe that the person who sits at their desk for hours a day writing Star Trek fan fiction for their Star Trek web site doesn't get the same things out of writing that I do, so it must not mean as much, and is therefore not really writing.

I'm wrong about that.  I will admit that right now.  It was pretentious and more than a little bit cruel of me to believe such a thing.  I don't think I even realized I believed that until I really thought about it.  Perhaps that's the price I pay for going to grad school.

Anyone who writes gets something from the writing that they need, and who am I to say that what they get and what they need are any less than what I get and what I need?

If I can get past my arrogance on what a writer is on that level, then why can't I consider myself a writer?

There's something holding me back.  There's something that won't let me call myself a writer even though I know that's what I am, even though it's something that has defined me for as long as I can remember.

It is, as always, a matter of self-confidence...

This entry, and it's sequel (coming next Monday), are a part of a series of blog posts that just seem to keep going and going.  You can find them here:

What's Important 1: Twitter Tortures Me

What's Important 2: The Social Tank

What's Important 3: Happiness

What's Important 4: The Zen of Art

What's Important 5: You Can Get With This