"Are you a writer?"
The question caught me off guard. I had been explaining to my brother-in-law about the Slice of Life Story Challenge when he dropped that bomb of a question that sucked the air right out of the room. I didn't know how to respond.
Am I a writer?
I was embarrassed to answer yes. Who was I to say I was a writer? Am I a published author? No. Not unless you count a UCSB English Department publication that included an essay I wrote my freshman year. (And that was close to a million years ago anyway.) Do I have a work in progress? No. I do have a collection of disconnected scenes I wrote two summers ago when I participated in Teachers Write, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count. Am I enrolled in any classes or belong to any writing groups? No and no.
All I have is a blog I started somewhat accidentally two years ago (again, when I was participating in Teachers Write). Every once in a while I will share my writing there. My audience, however, has been admittedly limited. So, even that doesn't seem like it would qualify me as a writer.
"Well, I was an English major in college," I stammered almost apologetically, as if I needed some explanation, some excuse for thinking I could take part in a writing challenge. With so much evidence supporting the conclusion that I was not a writer, why couldn't I just laugh and admit I wasn't?
Because somehow "no" didn't feel like the right answer either. If I am not a "writer," then what am I? For the last 25 days I have sat down faithfully, even on days when I felt like I just didn't want to, and I have written. Sometimes the ideas just weren't there. I wrote anyway. Sometimes my head was filled with ideas but the words refused to flow. Still I wrote. There were days I would have to stop what I was doing in the normal course of my day to jot down ideas in my writer's notebook. Once I even walked to my son's class to pick him up, scribbling away, all the while simultaneously praying I wouldn't run into anyone or, worse yet, a pole. I have read a post over and over and over again, making adjustments each time. I have taken risks in topic and in style, some of which have paid off and some of which have fallen incredibly flat. I have waited eagerly to hear what others have thought about what I shared, wondering if it would resonate with anyone or not. I have read others' writing, marveling at their word choice, their thoughtful reflections, and the sheer fluidity of their words. I have envied others their talent and given thought to what I could do to improve. I have spent my days thinking, planning, and rehearsing for the next post. And every minute of it, even the stressful I-don't-know-how-to-say-what-I-want-to-say ones, have filled me with a renewed energy and sense of purpose.
"Are you a writer?"
It was such a simple question that should have had an equally simple answer: yes or no. Yet, neither answer adequately described me. Yes and no exist in a world of black and white, and as I discovered when confronted by that very simple question, I exist instead in the gray world that lies somewhere in between.