So You Call Yourself a Writer…

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One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a writer is actually calling myself a writer.  Maybe you’ve felt this same way?  I mean, who am I to claim the name and mantle of an artist?  Shouldn’t I get a “real job” and stop being pretentious?  (I do have a day job, folks.  Just getting a contract to write a book does not instantly catapult one into the realm of “sayonara, suckahs!”, believe me.)  Nor does scoring a book deal come with a beret and a turtleneck, or a free pass and reserved table at a smoky bohemian coffee house.

Nope, I’m just still me, with thirty-mumble years of Jewish parents whispering in my ears about how it’s safer to have a job that pays regularly, who cautioned me that I was in for disappointment and failure, no matter how talented I might be.  Not that they weren’t proud of my skills, such as they are.  They just wanted me to be safe and self-supporting.  And society at large, I think, both over-venerates and undervalues those of us who discover creative impulses within ourselves and–gasp–think that’s what we should do with our lives.  I’ve always had a sense that “the world” thinks I should stop putting on airs and just get to work.

Two things about that.

1) The world doesn’t give a shit about what you do.  Very, very few people are actually looking at you or judging you (except your parents).

2) Writing IS work.

So.  Here I am struggling with phantoms.  My mother, who was famous for comments like, “Oh hey, that’s great that you’re getting an article featured on ___.  Too bad it doesn’t pay.” died three years ago.  She did get to see my first three novels published, and I know she was proud.  She won’t get to see this new one come out, but she would have bragged to her friends about it, definitely.  My dad just got his advanced reader copy of BLISS in the mail yesterday, and, wonder of wonders, is actually sitting down to read it.  Even my brother promises to do so.  My friends and my husband couldn’t be happier for me.  And, for heaven’s sakes, I live in SANTA FE, where every third person is an artist of one kind or another.  I should be able to self-identify without feeling like a doof.

Speaking of Santa Fe, I decided to “do as the Romans do” yesterday, and went to see an energy healer.  I did this because I hold myself back as a writer.  I don’t simply flow, and I don’t feel comfortable making it my priority, even when I’m on contract (and on deadline).  Writing, though it is the one occupation that ever makes me feel RIGHT, is also a deeply difficult thing for me to sit down and do.  Now, as a poster child for the AMA, I felt beyond skeptical visiting this woman.  “How woo-woo!”  I thought.  “This is never going to work.”  But it was a very powerful experience, opening me to feelings I rarely let myself expose.  I’m glad I went.

Truthfully, writing is scary. You don’t know where you’ll end up when you begin.  As I said in a previous post, it requires a sort of voluntary possession.  And what if–dread of dreads–nothing comes out when you try?  So it’s a fearful thing.  It requires courage.  Fortitude.  Sometimes I don’t feel up to all that.  But if I want to be this thing (and I do) I have to treat it like any other job.  Which would please dear old mum, I’m sure.

One thought on “So You Call Yourself a Writer…

  1. I know what you mean, Hillary. Writing is hard work but I find I’m constantly explaining myself; just a couple minutes ago the help popped her head into my bedroom to ask if we had any more paper towels. I can only imagine what I looked like to her–in bed at 2:00 PM, un-showered, on my laptop. I’m WORKING, yet hear myself tell her, “I’m doing the PR rollout for a new e-book and am spending the day reading it so I can interview the author and write a press release tomorrow.” I’m sure in her world you don’t “work” while lounging in bed.

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