I still feel funny referring to myself as a writer.
It seems sort of idealistic. A little too pie-in-the-sky maybe. What do you do? Oh me? I'm a writer. As though this somehow implies I spend my days pouring over poetry by the fountain, and sampling vegan foods from around the world, and contemplating the human condition with any number of brilliant acquaintances from my diversity roster.
For the record, I haven't read much poetry since college, and my vegan experience peaked at the Whole Foods salad bar. I do have lovely, smart friends, but we usually spend our time eating pie and catching up on what’s happening in our day jobs.
The truth is this: I hesitate to call myself a writer because I’m afraid I might be a bad writer. I swim too, but I don’t call myself a swimmer. Michael Phelps is a swimmer. I’m a person who likes to swim. So maybe I’m just a person who likes to write.
I mean, I do suck at grammar, and Spellcheck is the only reason I don’t look like a total idiot in print. For crying out loud, writers are supposed to be good at the mechanics, right? Yet, some small voice inside of me insists that these things don’t matter. That being edgy, and mysterious, and brilliant – all those stereotypes I set up and then fall short of – aren’t important either. They’re just layers of padding, built in excuses so I don’t have to admit that I’m afraid of looking like a fool.
And the truth is I am afraid. I send my manuscripts to my agent and then chew my nails down to nubs, and eat everything in sight, and refresh my inbox forty times an hour. I rehearse what I’ll tell my editor if she doesn't like my work. I remind myself that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks – what is this middle school? – as long as I’m happy with myself…blah, blah, blah. And you know what I’ve learned? It’s okay to be neurotic. It’s okay to be self-conscious. If I wasn’t so afraid, I wouldn’t care, and if I didn’t care, writing would just be a hobby.
Here’s how I know it’s not: When I wake up in the morning, I want to write, and when I go to bed at night, I know I haven’t written enough. I think in sentence form (typically grammatically incorrect sentences). I’m distracted by dialog being spoken in my head. And I will always assign hero and villain status to individuals in my everyday adventures.
When I write I feel like my best self, the self I want to be. When I put it all out there on the page, I feel fulfilled. And if that makes me vulnerable, and that vulnerability makes me scared, that’s okay. Because this is who I am.
Maybe writing isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s basketball, or, I don’t know, acting, but you don’t know if you’re any good. Own it. If it’s what burns inside you, if it reframes the way you think and is a part of every decision you make, you aren’t just a person who likes to act. You’re an actor.
And me? I’m a writer.