Introduce yourself as a writer. Frequently.
For a long time, I wasn’t published. To me, this was practically being tossed down the stairs in the wrong direction. It was a terrible feeling for a person who wanted to be a writer as soon as they recognized their words on paper didn’t look too bad. I was routinely put into situations where people would shake my hand, bright smile on their face and say, “Oh! And what do you do for a living?”
I have, from the time I wanted to be a writer to now, been:
- a student
- a floor worker at a shop that sold glass pipes, CD’s, incense, weaponry and knick-knacks
- a waitress
- an office manager/DJ/editor/writer/accounts manager at a Student Media Center
- a quality auditor
- a call center rep for a power company and a Medicare carrier
- an assistant and agent at a bagpiping school/folk music agency
While some of these sound like interesting stories – and they all come with more than a handful – none of them rolled off the tongue in the same way that ‘a writer’ did. But how could I say that when I didn’t have a book to flash or something more than my college rag?
I tried it out with a stranger at Super Cuts. “Oh, what do you do?” she asked.
“I’m a writer,” I said. “I also have a certification in sky diving and breed Saint Bernards. And I may be distantly related to British royalty. Wealthy British royalty.” The lies, the lies, the lies.
I voiced this concern to one of the first people who introduced me to the idea of writing professionally. We had met at a creative writing class, and she had been nice enough to look at several pieces I had written and wanted published. “Oh, you’re a writer,” she had said, smiling, not even pausing. “You can go on ahead and say that. I mean, it’s obvious.”
It was what I needed to hear then, and that’s why I’m telling you now: if you’re a writer, you’ll know it. Go ahead. Even if all you have is a notebook full of half-hashed short stories. Even if your novel is just strands and strands of fortune cookie paper. Say it. You’re a writer. Shake someone’s hand and yell it in their face.
Not too loud, though. You don’t want to be that writer.