It’s not often that I tell people I write. I never call myself a Writer in my non-writing circles. I think of myself as a writer with an asterisk. A caveat. Yes, I write stuff. But.
I devote so much time to writing. I’ve been at this for years. I’m self-aware enough to realize that while I may not be the Next Great American Novelist, I’m not bad at this whole writing thing. Sometimes, I’m even good at it. I’ve come a long way since my first attempts and I’ve devoted much hard work to honing my craft.
Still. For me, the fact that I am, as of yet, unpublished, makes calling myself a writer feel so trite, verging on pathetic. I fear the glazed-over eyes and feigned interest from those I venture to tell of my hobby/passion/dream. I dread the questions: “Where can I find your work?” Oh, no, nothing published. Yet. Big vulnerable smile. “I know someone who self-published, can’t you just do that?” No, that’s not the path for me. I hate that it paints me, in moments of total insecurity, as a grown-ass woman with a ridiculous pipe-dream. Most every writer will attest: writing opens up a roller-coaster of highs that could quite possibly be delusions of grandeur, and lows of complete self-doubt. I sometimes fall into the mindset of wondering – is it worth is? All the time and energy I put into this? Will it still be worth it, even if my work is never picked up?
A writing teacher recently talked about Process vs. Product. It was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment. Focusing too much on Product can lead to dark places. It was a needed reminder of all the reasons I love the Process of writing: the insight I gain, the creativity I harness, the worlds I get lost in, the catharsis, the intellectual stimulation, the way writing (and reading) changes the way I see the world and improves my ability to empathize. The escape it grants me, and the complete unfettered joy that comes from seeing my words arranged onto a page in a way that I’m proud of.
Does being a Writer depend on the Product? No, I don’t think so. Do I permit myself the title of Author only if I am agented and published? I still tend toward “yes” on this. But. In a healthier, less self-flagellating sort of way. So much of publishing is dependent on the being in the right place at the right time. It’s good, too, to have writer friends to give me someone to talk to ad nauseam about all things writing. It helps that I’m married to a guy that will happily let me carry on about writing for hours at a time. Who will read everything I write and give me feedback and encouragement.
I still hope to find an agent. To be published. But hanging every hope and dream on that nail takes too much away from the joy I find in writing. And while some people may never understand the time and energy I devote to this, and I may never feel comfortable talking about it to non-writers, I can come to terms with that. Like so many things in life, it boils down to a healthy balance. I’m a big fan of the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of the time spent on craft, 20 percent on pursuing publication/industry stuff. And from now on, none of the time thinking badly of myself because I’m not “legit” by the high standards I’ve been holding myself to. I am a writer. I write. And I freaking love (nearly) every minute of it. Even the minutes I hate, I still love the passion and energy it evokes in me. Begone, asterisk. I’m done trying to qualify and quantify. I am, always have been, and always will be a Writer.