Becoming a Writer, Out Loud

Today is the official launch of my writing website.  I’ve been writing for the better part of thirty years, yet in all that time, I’ve never actually called myself a “writer” before now.  When prompted, I’ve been known to use the cagey:  “Yes, I write.”  (It’s this thing that I do, not something that I am.)  Or worse:  “Writing is my hobby.” (Like collecting teacups or watching Jeopardy!.)

But never:  “Yes, I’m a writer.”

There’s no better way to upend a pleasant conversation than by blurting out that you’re a writer (unless you’ve got some published books under your belt).  It usually incites a mild panic in the other party.  Why?  Because – let’s face it – most amateur writing is awful, and some of it is downright weird.  Whenever I fess up to writing, I suddenly see myself reflected in the eyes of that other person, and I wonder, Is my writing awful?  Am I downright weird?  Suddenly, I’m not so sure.

There’s also something uniquely intimate in the revelation.  Writing is not the sort of thing you can do hardheartedly or occasionally and then tuck away (like collecting teacups or watching Jeopardy!).  To write – to be a writer – is to put your heart into something wholly.  To write publicly is to confess that you’ve put your heart into something wholly, and feels a bit like pinning said heart onto your sleeve.

Finally, there’s that nagging lack of entitlement.  How can I claim to be a writer when I’ve never been published?  Especially when I’ve been rejected over and over by the very people who decide which words are worth printing?  So I’ve quietly submitted manuscripts and entered contests, waiting for validation from an editor or an agent to give me permission to reveal my secret identity.  

Until now.  It has dawned on me, finally, that I am a writer – and always have been – for one simple reason:  because I write.  I write when I can steal a moment of free time from an otherwise hectic schedule.  I write on the train into work.  I write (annoyingly) when I’m trying to fall asleep at night.  I write because my daughter gives me raw material that is just too good to pass up.  I write because the act is simultaneously thrilling and crushing, but ultimately rewarding.  I write because it’s how I build a safe, sane space in a chaotic world.  I write because it’s cheaper than therapy.  I write for myself, but also in the hope that lots and lots of people will read my words someday.  I write because I don’t know how not to.  I write constantly, sometimes without recognizing that I’m doing it. I just write.

So today I’m making it official.  I’m saying it out loud – digitally speaking.

I’m a writer.

And now, I’ve got a whole website to prove it.

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