Who I Am

They were black and thick, the kind of frames worn by poets and Real Writers, and I wanted them. Each time I went to the eye doctor’s, I’d glance at those rows of black, intellectual glasses for sale. And I do mean glance.

Nobody would catch me lusting after those glasses. Not so much because it’s weird to lust after plastic, although certainly it is. I just didn’t want anyone to catch me lusting after those glasses. The ones that said creative, and smart, and published. Because if people caught me staring at those glasses—or, god forbid—thinking of actually buying a pair, they might see me for the imposter I was:  a fake writer trying to look like the real deal.  

Every time I walked right past, with a silent promise that I’d march over and buy a pair once I’d earned them. Yes, I’d buy them once I became a Real Writer. There was only one problem.

What was a real writer? My personal definition shifted as my career moved forward. When I worked as a newspaper reporter, a ‘real writer’ wrote novels and short stories. When I wrote my novel, a ‘real writer’ was published. When I had a piece published online, a ‘real writer’ published in print magazines. One year turned into two years, then three, and four. Still those glasses sat in Dr. Stanley’s office. In my eyes, I still hadn’t earned the right to try them on.

And then one day in 2009, I did something radical. I told myself:  whatever a real writer is, you are it. I ignored all of the definitions I’d internalized over the years about how real writers are the ones who write every day, or get paid for their writing, or get pieces published. I simply told myself, you are a writer. And then to cement the deal, I began to tell other people, I am a writer (what nerve!) That’s when an unexpected thing happened.

An unexpected, scary and wonderful thing.

I became a real writer. Writing became my business and career. I stopped thinking of it as the fun hobby I did outside of work. I created a submission schedule, and began posting regularly to this blog. 

Soon others noticed, and regional parenting magazines began accepting my work. A national writer’s magazine published one of my essays. (They published this essay, in fact.) Writers began to contact me with advice about what worked for them. Gifts of writing classes and news of freelance teleseminars came my way. All of this happened within the two months that I made that decisive trip to Dr. Stanley’s and bought those glasses; since I allowed myself to think—I am a real writer.

I wear my thick, dark glasses proudly. They aren’t black like the others I’ve seen writers wear, but a deep maroon that is 100 percent me, just like my tentative, one-of-a-kind path into this writing life. They’re a constant reminder that it doesn’t matter what others think.

I am a writer. 
And so are you.


Erica Ellis said...

I have just recently started freelancing and I force myself to say I'm a writer when people ask me what I do for a living. Since I only have one publishing credit, it often feels like a lie, but I make myself do it because I really believe that saying it helps you believe it, which helps you live it. I am a writer! :)

Colleen said...

Hi Erica, that's so great! I wish I'd had the courage to do the same when I first started out - would've saved years of submitting in silence, and I might've gotten the help I needed much sooner! Good luck with your publications, and I hope you'll share your next publication with us. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help,


Chelsea said...

Beautifully said.