Monday, March 28, 2011

The courage to call yourself a writer

You wouldn't think that calling yourself a writer would take courage, but if you are a writer toiling away in oblivion waiting for that one big beautiful day that a publisher will look at your manuscript and grin from ear to ear- you can relate. Until your work is published, calling yourself a writer can be intimidating stuff something I thought I had gotten past but was reminded of just today.

My head has been hurting lately and my doctor, thinking it has to do with tension in my neck and shoulders, referred me to a physical therapy office for a massage. During the evaluation where they go over your symptoms and learn more about you, we had the following conversation:

PT: So what do you think might be some reasons for your recent neck and shoulder tension?
Me: Well I lift my baby a lot, and I think I sit awkwardly when I'm on the computer.
PT: You're on the computer a lot?
Me: A great bit of time, yes.
PT: Oh, I see here you're a lawyer, you have a home business?
Me: Um, no I'm not practicing at the moment.
PT: pauses. So then why are you on the computer so much?
Me: Well,  I write.
PT: You write?
Me: Yes.
PT: So you write? Write what? Memos? Briefs?
Me: Um, no. I write. . . novels. . .

And my voice trailed off as I saw her incredulous expression.

Kristen Lamb encourages us to call ourselves writers, to not be ashamed of the title for it is only by owning it that we will actually see the dream of publication come true. And yet- though I've been paid for my writing, though I have an agent, and am hoping for publication- it feels so strange and foreign to explain to people that you are a writer. I get the same type of look as if I told them I sell doilies made of newspapers and hope to make a living out of it. A polite smile, and. . . befuddlement.

But people understanding or not, is not your problem- your job is to own who you are, be proud of it, and to take steps, active steps, to realize the vision you have for yourself. Us writers, are a notoriously procrastinating bunch, for as much as we love writing we seem to always find ways to get out of it- but its important not to get distracted- and to keep on keeping on- its the only way to succeed. My voice trailed off with the evaluator for my pain- but next time I will hold my head up high and own who I am and what I do.

As the masseuse finished my massage, I told her I was glad the headache was just a tension headache and not- and she cut me off before I could finish. Don't say it, she said. Don't put something like that out there into the universe- you never know when it could come back to you.

In addition to being a writer, which I already am, I hope to soon be a published author. There, that is me, putting that out there into the universe, hoping it will come back to me too.

Can you relate to this? Do you find a moment's hesitation when you have to tell someone you're a writer?

Image Source: here


  1. "I write...novels." This cracked me up!

    I dread, dread, DREAD that "So, what do you do?" question that always seems to come up in conversation with people I don't know. Therefore, I often say, "Nothing at the moment" and kind of feel like a coward for relegating my "day job" to nothing. Because it's a huge SOMETHING to me...and to people like you, as well.

    Congrats on the agent! Good luck to publication! I hope the universe will send it back to you, too.

  2. Ashley glad you can relate to this- I do that too I say "I'm home with my son" but yeah, I sometimes don't add "also writing. . ." Still- we have to be proud of what we do- it will hopefully show forth in our efforts for publication. Thanks for your well wishes!! Same for you!!! :)

  3. Aisha,

    I am taking Kristen Lamb's Author Brand class right now on Write it Forward and it's the best use of $20 I've ever had. Nearly all of us had this problem, feeling silly or uncomfortable calling ourselves writers.

    YOU are a lovely WRITER and I hope you shout it to the world the next time you're asked.

  4. I think all creative professions go through this. Whether you're a photographer, writer, actor, artist or seems that people just can't associate a boundless career with traditional success. Creative professionals do what they love and we do it with passion. For whatever reason, it drives people nuts...but we should be proud to be out-of-the-box thinkers and dreamers! Keep on keeping on!!! ;)

  5. Jenny, I had no idea she taught classes right now! And from one WRITER to another WRITER, thank you for your words of support :)

    Chantilly, you are right- so true- antime you are trying to perfect and hone an art- its hard to understand- thanks for relating how broad this is- and yes, we should be proud! :)

  6. Aisha -- thanks for your comment at FearofWriting. I posted this reply there, but wanted to comment here as well.

    When I was in high school, I ended up doing a private workshop with the writer Jaimy Gordon, who was teaching at Brown then. It was an amazing experience: I was like a talented little puppy and Jaimy would give me different exercises to see just what kind of tricks I could do. I wrote a collection of short stories as a final project — she took painstaking care to comment on each, was frank and encouraging, and set me off into the world pretty much on track, I’m sure she thought.

    After a couple of years at college I was an insecure and uncertain mess. I’d written a bunch of things and gotten far away from where I wanted to be going. I didn’t believe I was a writer. I sent Jaimy a letter asking her just that, Was I a writer. She sent back a generous and considerate response that could be summed up in one line. Yes, you are a writer.

    I didn’t buy it.

    When I read the post you put up yesterday, I heard Jaimy’s voice channeling through me saying, hey, Aisha, don’t sweat it. You’re a writer. Being a writer is just like a being a Mom. Once you’ve done it, no one can take it away from you. You do your own kind of Mom-ing and you do your own kind of writing.


    When you look at someone and say, ‘I write’ in a simple declaration, you’re giving them a chance to prove themselves. You don’t have anything to prove. If they say, “really, what?” then they are OK. If they say, “Are you published?” move on. They won’t get what drives you anyway.

  7. Thank you for taking the time to give me your beautiful perspective on this- writing is like being a mother- once you've done it no one can ever take that away from you- you are. WOW.

    Thank you for sharing this- very inspiring. Good luck to you in your writing endeavours!

  8. I couldn't agree more with this post. I have recently claimed myself as the artist I have always known myself to be...yet sometimes I have felt like a fraud. There is a great deal of courage and self confidence needed to own what you are...but each time you say it, you begin to believe it more and more. I think for many people awakening parts of themselves, they need to practice owning it over and over...even in the most uncomfortable moments. Sure, you can hesitate and think "I'm not a ...." but say it anyway. Every time you will believe it more.

  9. Hi, Aisha. Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

    This is so funny! The look people give you when they find out you're writing a novel is always priceless. Though, I guess this happens because it's something most people can't relate to. Then there are preconceptions, misconceptions... What can you do?

    I guess when I tell people I'm writing a novel I just have to give them a big fat smile, all the while expecting "that look." I think of it as a source of amusement now.

  10. Marianne, "every time you say it, you will believe it more" I love the essence of your comment- beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Yoyo, you're right people can't relate so they stare at you funny- its important to realize its not your problem! :)

  11. Is there anyone who hasn't suffered for the secret love? We alwaysthink that love is very heavy, heavy and could be the heaviest thing inthe world. But one day, when you look back, you suddenly realize thatit's always light, light. We all thought love was very deep, but infact it's very thin. The deepest and heaviest love must grow up withthe time.


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