Have you ever heard that saying,”If you’re a writer, you must write”? Like, ‘real’ writers feel compelled to write. I do think there’s a little truth to that. For a very long time, I tried to write fiction. I have two completed novels in my file cabinet, but my fiction writing is very sporadic. It’s HARD, you know? A few months ago, I decided that because I didn’t feel called to work on those books, or to write others, I wasn’t a writer. I often get those little “What if” moments, thinking “Oh, that would be a cool story!” But then I don’t do anything with them. Therefore, my self-deprecating brain decided that meant I wasn’t a writer.
But then I had an epiphany: I have this blog. I’ve been writing here for quite a while now. I’ve lost track of how long, but I’m thinking it’s around two years. Before that, I journaled. I was being too limiting: I AM a writer. I do feel compelled to write. I don’t write every day, though I’m trying, but I write often. And even though I started this blog primarily to talk about my knitting, I’ve written about a lot of different things: dogs, depression, loss, grief, parenting, reading, and now writing.
I AM a writer. I may not be a writer of fiction, but I am a writer. The things I am compelled to write are true, they’re stories of me and my experiences, my thoughts, my opinions. Maybe that’s selfish, or egotistical, to think that people would want to read about me. But maybe it’s also helpful to read about real people. I know I enjoy reading other people’s personal stories. They help me learn about myself, feel better about myself. They inspire me and teach me. They help me feel not so alone in this often-hard world. So why couldn’t my stories do the same? It’s a lofty goal, for sure, and I don’t know if I’m there yet. All I know is that this is what compels me to write, this is what comes out easily and with passion, these are the stories that read true.
Years ago, back in the stone age when a writer used manila envelopes, snail mail, and SASEs, I sent my second novel out to agents. I probably queried fifty agents, and I received a LOT of rejection slips. Those were disheartening, of course. But! I received one “Query me later”, one handwritten “Well written but not right for me” and one request for a full. No, I didn’t get an agent, and the book didn’t get published. But given the number of queries agents receive, I consider those responses as small successes. At least three people saw potential in my writing. Not just people, publishing professionals. Why didn’t I keep going, keep pushing with this book? No idea. Laziness, fear, frustration. I also had a young child at the time, so I could have easily gotten distracted. I’ve thought about going back to this book, but again, I haven’t pushed myself. Both my novels were written on old computers and revising them would mean completely re-typing them into my current laptop. Yep, that would be a good opportunity to revise. And I might still. But my current manuscript is where my heart is right now, my little memoir from my retail life. So that’s where I’ll be pushing. The real work begins now, as I move into the realm of query letters and proposals. I have to convince someone that my book matters. What tricks or tips do you have for writing query letters?
Last night, I handed off a freshly printed manuscript to my husband. Then, to distract myself, I started a new hat. It’s a lovely dark emerald green, and it will grow up to be a slouchy hat.
For the longest time, I had difficulty saying I was a writer. This was partly because I had identified by my previous profession (HR executive) for so many years. Mainly, it was because I didn’t feel qualified enough and I wasn’t a published author. Now, after three years of blogging and a few essays published, I’m glad to call myself a writer. And what’s interesting is that when people ask what I do and I respond that “I write,” I get a more positive response than when I said, “I’m in HR.” Keep plugging away.
Thanks for commenting! Yes, I definitely don’t feel qualified to say “I’m a writer” in that context. I don’t even say “I’m a knitter”, I say “I’m a mom.” Like my value is solely from my relationship to others? I think I will follow your lead and see what happens! But I wonder: how many people follow up with “Really? Me too!”
Author Micheal Xavier said it wonderfully when told “writers were a lazy bunch”, his reply, “the heaviest thing we lift is the human heart.
I love that!
Great post, I think a lot of people judge their “writerness” by whether or not they’ve been published, but I believe you are completely correct. As soon as someone writes because they want to write, they become a writer.
Thank you! Yes, being a writer doesn’t have to be dependent on an audience. I just need to remind myself of that periodically.
Beautiful green yarn. I can’t wait to hear how your book publishing goes.